King Soopers reaches tentative deal with union to end strike

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Chris Arceo protests with his King Soopers colleagues outside of the Sheridan Boulevard and Florida Avenue location in Denver’s Mar Lee neighborhood. Jan. 12, 2022.

Updated at 2:00 p.m.

The union representing thousands of King Soopers employees announced Friday morning that it reached a tentative three-year deal with the company to end a 10-day strike.

Workers and shoppers alike returned to King Soopers stores Friday.

At several King Soopers in Denver, shoppers were returning to their usual stores. Parking lots were a bit more full than during the last week.

Mike Lintz was one of those shoppers making her return to King Soopers. She said she’s frequented the company’s stores for about 40 years but didn’t cross the picket line during the strike.

“I’ve shopped here for so many years,” Lintz said. “People are nice and you have to respect them. I tried Safeway, Trader Joes and Whole Foods, but as soon as I heard it was over I said ‘OK, I’m going shopping.’”

Details about what's in the proposed contract have not been made public. Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 will vote Monday on whether to ratify the agreement. 

More than 8,000 workers walked off the job Jan. 12 after their previous contract expired. The strike affected 78 King Soopers locations along the Front Range. Near the end of the strike, a judge granted a restraining order limiting the number of picketers who could rally at storefronts.

Negotiations between the two sides started in the fall of 2021. The company and union butted heads on a number of issues, ranging from pay to worker safety and security. Last month, the union filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit against the company for allegedly hiring temporary workers at a higher wage than union members.

“After months of negotiations and after our members walked out on strike, we have reached a tentative agreement with King Soopers/City Market that addresses the Company’s unfair labor practices and ensures that our members will receive the respect, pay, and protection they warrant," said Kim Cordova, the president of UFCW Local 7. "This fight will always be about the workers. I could not be prouder of our members who put it all on the line to have their voices heard.”

Workers were told they could return to work as early as Friday morning.

“We are pleased that this agreement allows us to put more money in our associates’ paychecks and  secures healthcare and pension plans.” Joe Kelley, president of King Soopers and City Market, said in a statement.  “We look forward to welcoming back our associates and customers.”  

Jack Buffington, a professor in supply chain management at DU’s Daniels College of Business, said King Soopers may have felt pressure to reach an agreement because people were choosing to shop at competitors rather than cross the picket line. 

Around Denver, some shoppers noticed bare shelves at stores like Safeway the past few days — even more so than before due to supply chain issues.

“I think the number of people who boycotted the store was greater than what they thought. There was strong support for the workforce and they were … caught off guard by that,” Buffington said.

Messaging about workers struggling to pay for food and shelter appeared to resonate with the public. The union did a better job of marketing, he added. 

The strike ended up being relatively short, and Buffington believes shoppers will likely revert to King Soopers because it is the dominant supermarket brand across the Front Range. 

“It’s obviously a win for the workers, but I think it’s a bigger opportunity for the union,” Buffington said. “We’ll see if they leverage that (nationwide) or not.”

CPR's Sarah Mulholland and Denverite's Desiree Mathurin contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from King Soopers and City Market president Joe Kelley.

Previous coverage of the King Soopers strike: