DENVER (KDVR) — Unionized King Soopers workers were set to resume negotiations with their employer on Saturday, the fourth day of a strike that’s impacted customer traffic to the grocer’s Denver-area stores.
Outside a King Soopers store in Edgewater on Saturday morning, about a dozen union workers picketed, community members demonstrated support and passersby drove through the sparsely-populated parking lot, honking their horns.
“It snowed yesterday, it’s 10 degrees today and everybody is in good spirits,” said Carly Ferguson, one of a few store neighbors who turned out in support of the picketers.
“This is my neighborhood. These are my neighbors,” Ferguson said.
A temporary worker on his third day on the job said the grocer is far from busy.
“A trickle, I’m going to use the word trickle,” the employee said from outside the storefront.
King Soopers strike talks unproductive
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 had reopened negotiations with the Kroger-owned King Soopers on Friday, two days after the strike began. But Friday’s talks totaled just 68 minutes throughout the day, according to the union, and ended with no resolution. Negotiations were to continue at 10 a.m.
The union claimed that King Soopers “did not present a single proposal,” while the union made new offers of its own. Local 7 President Kim Cordova said that at one point during negotiations, King Soopers leadership stormed out of the meeting and accused company president Joe Kelley of having a “fit of rage.” A King Soopers spokesperson countered the claim as a “misrepresentation of the truth,” saying “Joe is passionate about advocating on behalf of our associates.”
Cordova on Friday called the company’s latest proposals “regressive” and said they were contingent upon Safeway and Albertsons negotiations. King Soopers suggested that if Safeway and Albertsons reached a lesser deal for its workers, King Soopers workers should accept the same, Cordova said. She said the competing grocers had representatives present for some of the talks.
King Soopers workers reject earlier wage hike offer
On Tuesday, King Soopers said it offered a $170 million package that would raise wages over the next three years, including bonuses, and would invest in healthcare benefits “that would result in zero impact” to current premiums — the latter a major concern for the union in prior offers. Starting pay would increase to $16 an hour, bringing a cashier with five years experience up to $47,000 in annual wages.
The company continued to point to that offer in its Friday statements.
The Local 7 said in a statement Friday that the company’s latest offer has “numerous poison pill provisions.” Among them would be forfeited daily overtime pay, and some employees would face wage cuts of up to $3.34 an hour. To bolster their arguments, they pointed to a leaked Kroger document from 2018 that warned that a large number of the grocer’s employees live in poverty and rely on food stamps.
The Local 7 and King Soopers had been in talks for months over a new contract. In the days before the contract expired on Jan. 8, each side had filed a lawsuit and claimed unfair labor practices.
The UFCW Local 7 said it represents about 17,000 grocery workers from King Soopers/Kroger.