King Soopers workers in Denver, Colorado Springs to strike Wednesday, union says

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The entrance to the King Soopers in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, May 19, 2020.

The union representing thousands of King Soopers and City Market grocery workers in metro Denver, Colorado Springs and other Front Range communities says it will strike next week against alleged unfair labor practices.

Workers at 88 stores will begin to strike starting at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12, according to a statement from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7. The strike could last up to three weeks, the statement said. 

Stores in the following locations would be impacted by a strike:

  • Aurora
  • Arvada
  • Boulder
  • Centennial
  • Colorado Springs
  • Denver
  • Evergreen
  • Englewood
  • Golden
  • Highlands Ranch
  • Lakewood
  • Louisville
  • Littleton
  • Thornton
  • Wheat Ridge
  • Westminster

The official strike announcement comes after months of back-and-forth contract negotiations between the union and the supermarket chain’s parent company, Kroger. The union’s current contract expires Jan. 8.

UFCW Local 7 rejected the company’s latest offer on Wednesday after 17 hours of negotiations. The proposed contract included $148 million in wage investments and signing bonuses for workers, according to a statement from King Soopers. 

“Local 7 is threatening disruption instead of focusing on what is best for our associates, their members,” said Joe Kelley, president of King Soopers and City Market. “We want what is best for our associates.” 

The company also proposed additional health care benefits, according to the statement. 

An agreement for a new contract had not been reached as of Friday. The union has threatened to strike during past negotiations, only to back off of plans closer to the strike date.

The company’s proposals so far include a host of unfair concessions, such as a multi-tiered wage system that results in lower pay for workers in smaller cities, according to Kim Cordova, the union’s president.

“This is a direct result of the company’s bad faith at the bargaining table,” Cordova said in a statement outlining the union’s strike plans. “Our plea remains the same: Stop these unfair labor practices, and respect us, protect us and pay us what we deserve.”

Union members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike earlier this week, after filing an unfair labor practices lawsuit against the company last week. The complaint alleges that King Soopers broke the union’s current contract by hiring temporary workers to fill store vacancies. 

The hiring practices have disrupted negotiations for a new contract, according to Cordova. Workers are hoping to secure better pay, security and workplace safety policies after working through the pandemic, she said.

Kroger has denied any wrongdoing.

“King Soopers/City Market has followed the law and has NOT received any notice of wrongdoing from the National Labor Relations Board,” the company said in a statement. “King Soopers/City Market remains focused on the bargaining process and is committed to negotiating in good faith and settling a contract that is good for our associates while keeping groceries affordable for our customers.”

King Soopers and City Market stores outside of metro Denver and Colorado Springs are not officially included in the strike, according to the union, since their contracts don’t expire until later in the year.