King Soopers Workers Threaten To Strike After Negotiations Break Down

<p>David Zalubowski/AP Photo</p>
<p>An unidentifed worker puts grapes on a shelf in a King Soopers store in southeast Denver on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005.</p>
Photo: King Soopers Logo Produce Section
An unidentifed worker puts grapes on a shelf in a King Soopers store in southeast Denver on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005.

King Soopers and City Market workers say negotiations on a new labor contract ended abruptly Thursday night after company representatives walked out of the room and did not return.

They say that the latest proposal from King Soopers parent company Kroger is unfair and that they’ll strike as a result.

The union says this isn’t the first time company representatives have walked away from negotiations. Parent company Kroger says the facts of the negotiation have been misrepresented.

Union members say the offer currently on the table is not enough to take care of their families and will likely lead them to strike.

“I'm talking to my co-workers all the time. They're tired and they don't want to have to strike,” said Liz Barr, a King Soopers floral manager who has worked for the company for 14 years. “They're scared to have to strike, but we need the company to pay attention and they need to take care of us and our customers.”

The UFCW Local 7 union represents more than 12,000 workers in Colorado. Statewide union members will vote in the next week or two on the proposal and whether or not to strike, according to union spokesperson Evan Yeats.

Their main concern is that the company does not offer first-day sick pay, that means if an employee feels ill and calls in sick, they can’t get that same day off. Yeats said this encourages workers, who often handle food, to come in sick, something not healthy for employees or customers.

“What's being offered right now is such an insult to the workers and all they do for the company that we couldn't in good conscience accept what's being offered,” Barr said.

Kroger operates about 150 King Soopers and City Market stores in the state. Last year, Kroger was ranked 17th on the Forbes 500 list, and had more than $122 billion in revenue. The union argues the company’s profits aren’t being shared with workers.

Kroger employees’ current contract expired on January 12, 2019. The union has been bargaining for a new contract since mid-December.

The company says its offer is fair, and that employee health benefits are "best in class."

"Our team has made themselves available to continue negotiating with the union," the company said in a statement. "As negotiations continue, our stores and associates will serve our communities as they always have."

Kroger says the offer "makes significant investments in associates," including increased wages and incremental investments to the employee pension plan.

The offer union members will consider includes no pay raises over the next three years for about half of all employees, the union says. It also says employee benefits are pared down in the contract: that their health care coverage will cost them more and that there aren’t raises or equal health coverage access for courtesy clerks, who the union says are disproportionately disabled.