Teamsters: Protesters Slam UNFI & Whole Foods For Destroying Environment At Taxpayers' & Workers' Expense

 Teamsters: Protesters Slam UNFI & Whole Foods For Destroying Environment At
                        Taxpayers' & Workers' Expense

PR Newswire

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Dec. 18, 2013

Taxpayers Fight Back by Inducting America's Largest Organic Supply Chain
Partners into Corporate Tax Dodgers Hall of Shame

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Dec. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dozens of
educators, consumers, and labor and environmental activists gathered today to
protest the unsustainable practices of organic food distributor United Natural
Foods Inc. (UNFI) and retail partner Whole Foods Market (WFM) at UNFI's annual
shareholder meeting. They inducted UNFI and Whole Foods into the Corporate Tax
Dodgers Hall of Shame (



UNFI is taking $18 million in public subsidies while watching local schools
close and kids' music, arts, library and literacy programs shut down. UNFI is
also using out-of-state workers to build its warehouse in the Hudson Valley,
N.Y. This new warehouse disrupts ecologically-sensitive wetlands, while
turning 33 acres of farmland into a giant parking lot. UNFI management hustled
the project along at record speed, working with local developers to preempt
new department of conservation wetland maps. UNFI is also being prosecuted for
breaking America's labor laws for threatening and intimidating warehouse
workers at its Moreno Valley, Calif. distribution center.

"New York taxpayers should know that they're financing a company that has a
history of threatening, intimidating and firing warehouse workers at other
locations around the country," said Adrian Huff Secretary-Treasurer of
Teamsters Local 445 in Rock Tavern, N.Y. "Unfortunately, the public never had
the opportunity to ask if this is the kind of company we want to welcome into
our community and invest in. If you come to New York you should show respect
for its working families, pay good wages, pay your taxes – then you'd be
received with open arms."

"UNFI expects nearly $18 million in public subsidies, yet has refused to deal
fairly with the community or follow a truly accountable public process for
awarding subsidies," said Tomas Garduno, Political Director at The Alliance
for a Greater New York (ALIGN). "They get three strikes—for dodging taxes,
dodging questions about the environmental impact of this project, and dodging
their record on workers' rights."

"This project could have been built entirely with local union construction
workers, but instead, UNFI brought in an out-of-state contractor and plenty of
out of state materials, which could also have been easily sourced right here
in New York," said L. Todd Diorio, President of the Hudson Valley Building and
Construction Trades Council. "Not only are qualified and unemployed local
people losing out on these jobs, but less money will be circulated in the
local economy, making the larger community lose out on the economic benefits
of new construction."

UNFI and Whole Foods have a reputation for valuing sustainability, but
consumers challenged that.

"It's not enough to build a LEEDs building to make a project sustainable – the
building's impact on community, land, air and water matters as well. UNFI and
Whole Foods claim to care about the environment, but UNFI is disrupting
ecologically-sensitive wetlands, while turning farmland into a giant parking
lot," said Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of Organic Consumers
Association. "Along with Riverkeeper, we have serious concerns that this
project was approved without weighing the impacts of storm water pollution on
surrounding communities, without a climate change risk assessment and without
looking into the many available brownfield redevelopment alternatives in the

The EPA estimates that water runoff is 40–60 percent lower for brownfields
than greenfield developments. Community advocates have also cited numerous
problems in the public process for awarding subsidies to UNFI earlier this

"This subsidy deal makes a mockery of public participation and
community-focused economic development," said Rae Leiner, Organizer with
Community Voices Heard. "Playing neighboring towns against each other like
UNFI did is unethical. We need greater transparency and corporate
accountability in all subsidy deals so local communities can be sure they get
their money's worth from expensive corporate subsidies, ensuring hiring from
all surrounding areas, and meeting the need for good-paying local jobs."

The Valley Central School District alone stands to lose millions over the next
15 years because of UNFI's subsidy. Tim Brown, President of the Valley Central
Teacher's Association, questioned the priorities of IDA members for promoting
big tax breaks to profitable multinational corporations, while town taxes on
homeowners are increasing by 16.58 percent and severe cuts to local schools
have eliminated or reduced programs for kids such as elementary library, music
and art, along with a reduction in kindergarten from full to half day.

"Waiting until the year 2029 for UNFI to be an equal participant in supporting
the local community and its schools is an unsustainable and inherently unfair
expectation," Brown said. "I ask that UNFI demonstrate its sincerity with
regard to its stated Core Value of Community by reevaluating what it considers
to be its fair share of taxes owed to our children."

The advocates are filing a complaint against UNFI and the Montgomery IDA with
the Authorities Budget Office (ABO), the agency charged with overseeing public
authorities. The complaint details problems with the subsidy deal, including
inadequate public notice, an incomplete application for financial assistance,
failure to respond to a FOIL in a timely manner, and a potential conflict of
interest for an IDA Board Member. Remedies could include terminating the tax
exemptions and launching a full investigation, among others.

"Right now, the Montgomery IDA is letting UNFI just take the money and run,"
said Elizabeth Soto, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Area Labor
Federation. "Companies that accept public money must be held to a higher

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4
million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and
Puerto Rico. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and "Like" us on Facebook at

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters

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