Hundreds of workers at United Natural Foods Inc. warehouses in Hopkins and two other sites ended their walkout late Wednesday after the company agreed to resume talks with the Teamsters at a plant in Indiana.
Talks are scheduled to resume Thursday, the company and a leader of Teamsters Local 414 in Indiana said.
"After they agreed to meet, I pulled down the picket lines," said George Gerdes, principal officer of Local 414. "Our goal was to get them back to the table in good-faith bargaining."
The company and the Teamsters local in Fort Wayne, Ind., have been negotiating a new three-year contract to replace one that expired in September but haven't reached terms. The Fort Wayne workers went on strike last Thursday and were joined Tuesday by those in Hopkins and at a facility in Green Bay, Wis.
The Hopkins facility, where more than 700 work, is one of the biggest for UNFI and is the key supplier to more than 100 grocery stores in Minnesota, including the Cub Foods chain that UNFI also owns.
"I would like to thank the people of Local 120 for their cooperation," Gerdes said, referring to the Minnesota-based local that joined the picket line in sympathy with the Indiana workers.
UNFI acquired the warehouses and nearly 30 others in its purchase last year of Eden Prairie-based Supervalu Inc. Since then, UNFI has been negotiating new contracts with Teamsters union locals at the various warehouses.
Workers at a former Supervalu warehouse in Bismarck, N.D., have been working without a new contract since July, for instance.
"We hope to have our associates return to work in the very near-term," UNFI said in a statement. "We're also committed to return to the bargaining table in Fort Wayne and work in good faith with Teamsters Local 414 to reach a new labor agreement."
With more than 100 truck bays in two massive warehouses on both sides of Hwy. 169, the Hopkins distribution center is one of the largest in Minnesota and for UNFI. In addition to Cub, the Hopkins warehouse supplies goods to Lunds & Byerlys, Jerry's, Kowalski's and Coborn's.
In its statement, UNFI said: "We appreciate our customers' patience during this and also thank our facility managers, supervisors and colleagues from around the country who came together to help ensure our customers continued to receive their shipments from us during this disruption."