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What it means to “respect” workers – on and off the picket line

More than 8,000 King Soopers workers will vote today on a new contract

Hey! It’s Bree.

So, the King Soopers workers strike is over! Sort of? On Friday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7 called off the strike, saying they had reached a deal with the company. Past City Cast Denver guest and union president Kim Cordova said the agreement “addresses the company’s unfair labor practices and ensures that our members will receive the respect, pay, and protection they warrant.” Buuuut, now it’s up to union members to sign off on the new, three year agreement in a vote today. Orrrrrr, they could reject it and return to the picket lines, which wouldn’t be unheard of.

This also means that if you were a King Soopers customer who stopped shopping in support of the strike, you may be able to return soon.   (The union pulled down the picket lines and said it was cool to go back over the weekend, but personally, I’m waiting for the workers.) Which is a huge relief. I mean, I ended up spending my $200 grocery budget at Trader Joe’s on bags of yogurt-covered pretzels, jalapeño flavored fruit snacks, and frozen scallion hash browns, only to have my husband eat way too much from the stoner snack arsenal in one sitting and get a stomach ache. (TJ’s is a real mindfield if you don’t know what you’re doing in there!)

That foray into Trader Joe’s had me thinking — food access, when it comes to a local grocery store, can be an aspect of our daily lives that almost exists in the background. It’s always there, always open, and always has the basics. And those stores don’t operate without people. Even through an ongoing pandemic, the workers have been there. It took them walking off the job for us to feel the true impacts of what it could mean if we lost access to our grocery stores. And that was a big deal.

During the early days of the pandemic, we were clapping, howling, and banging pots and pans in support of frontline workers. But I also remember having conversations with my frontline worker family members who said, “the cheering is great, but what we really need is PPE, better pay, and reasonable workloads.” The strike was an opportunity for us to show that kind of support for one industry we’ve (maybe) taken for granted.

It has been a long time since I worked a customer-facing job. But after toiling those 15-plus years away in retail, how customers treated me is something I’ll never forget. I’ve been screamed at, cussed at, and threatened; I’ve had stuff thrown at me and been virtually held captive by a customer on Christmas Eve who clearly did not want to go home to her family, so she tried to bully a 19-year-old me into returning something that was unreturnable. (I ended up crying and begging her to leave the store so I could go home.) I wasn’t solving the world’s problems, nor was I this woman’s therapist. I was selling lipstick.

I realize the sheer luck I have to not work with the public anymore. Sure, spending the last two years on Zoom has been mildly isolating and weird. But it also has meant that through my pregnancy and first year of my son’s life, I’ve been at home, working remotely and safely. It also means that I’ve not had to be the mask police, or be the person on a sales floor explaining how supply chains work, or having to be amongst the manic hordes as they stuff as many rolls of toilet paper as they can into their cart, like life is some kind of bizarro edition of Supermarket Sweep.

As we get back to our regular shopping habits, I hope you think about what Kim Cordova meant about the respect workers deserve . They’re going to make the decision that’s best for them on this contract. And for us, the shoppers:  This whole thing is  a great reminder: be kind to frontline workers. They are doing the best they can. 

Don’t just take it from me — today on the podcast, my producer Paul Karolyi talks to his friend Miguel Jimenez, who worked for King Soopers for 22 years, including through a few contract negotiations and strikes.. He tells us about what King Soopers jobs used to be like and what he’d be looking for in the contract workers are voting on today. 

🎧 LISTEN: The Picket Lines Are Down. But The King Soopers Labor Dispute Isn’t Over.

— Bree Davies, Host of City Cast Denver and Retired Cashier


☕ Colorado baristas are organizing: 24 employees at a Starbucks serving the Superior/Broomfield area have made the first moves to unionize, petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to let them create a bargaining unit. The move comes weeks after a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, saw workers successfully unionize. The Colorado baristas join fellow coffee slingers in Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and other cities across the country who are organizing for better working conditions, liveable wages, and more staff.

🚨 Putting crime statistics into context: Is crime on the rise in Colorado? Depends on the type of crime, where you live, and what time span you’re looking at. The Denver Post did a deep-dive, stating “Not all types of crime are rising. While Colorado’s rates for homicide, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft rose by more than 10% in 2020 over the average of the prior three years, rates for rape, larceny, robbery and burglary stayed relatively level or declined.” Read more here.

🚭 Proposed flavored tobacco ban heads to the statehouse: A bipartisan-sponsored bill to ban the sale of flavored nicotine products — which would include hookah tobacco, flavored vaping juices and menthol cigarettes — has been introduced at the state level. This comes as Denver City Council voted 8-3 in December in favor of a similar ban at a city level, only to have Mayor Hancock veto the proposal, saying he wanted a state-level approach.