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King Soopers workers prepare the picket lines

What’s going on?
Last Friday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union — which represents about 8,700 Colorado King Soopers employees — announced plans for a strike at 78 grocery stores across the Front Range, including locations in metro Denver, Boulder, Parker, and Colorado Springs. The walkout is scheduled to begin tomorrow and last as long as three weeks unless a new agreement can be reached before then.

How did it come to this?
Following months of tense discussions, on Dec. 29, the Local 7 union filed a lawsuit against King Soopers for allegedly violating the collective bargaining contract by hiring temporary, non-union workers. Then Jan. 2-3, union employees voted overwhelmingly to strike over claims of unfair labor practices once the existing contract with the grocery store expired on Jan. 8. King Soopers, for its part, has denied any wrongdoing. The company did put a wage-increase offer on the table, but union officials rejected it, arguing that the offer was laced with too many concessions, like giving up overtime and upping health care premiums.

What does a strike mean for the employees?
If the strike moves forward, participating union employees will receive “strike benefits,” meaning full-time picketers will get $160 a day with a maximum of $800 per week for the duration of the strike. Employees that don’t work the picket line, but also don’t cross it, will receive $100 per week in honor pay. King Soopers has called the strike “reckless” and “disruptive” for employees.

What does it mean for customers?
If the strike moves forward, UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova says people may likely see picket lines at some King Soopers stores in the coming weeks. And King Soopers has said it has plans to hire temporary workers to make up lost manpower during the strike.

So, what happens now?
We wait and see. King Soopers has urged the union to come back to the table for negotiations, believing they can work together to come to an agreement. At a press conference yesterday, despite claims that King Soopers has been “misleading workers and the community about its proposals at the bargaining table,” Cordova announced that the union is willing to meet with King Soopers to continue negotiations on a new labor agreement, but rejected King Soopers’ request to bring in a federal mediator. She added:

“Because we have little faith that King Soopers really intends to reach an agreement that meets the needs of our workers, we are going to continue to prepare to pull the picket lines at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.”

Want more?
Hear more about the situation from Cordova herself in yesterday’s episode of City Cast Denver.

— Peyton Garcia, City Cast Denver Newsletter Writer


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