COLORADO SPRINGS — The unionized workers for King Soopers in Colorado voted by overwhelming margins to strike on Sunday and Monday. The workers are represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.
UFCW 7 viewed the strike as the option of last resort in the bargaining process.
In Denver, Boulder, Broomfield, and Colorado Springs, the lowest vote percentage to strike was 95%, and in Boulder and Broomfield the vote to strike was 100%.
The votes come after negotiations have foundered recently, with UFCW filing suit against King Soopers over allegations of violating the previous collecting bargaining agreement between the union and the company. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that King Soopers hired a third party staffing service to perform work that is supposed to be performed by union members. According to representatives of the union, this was done to undermine the negotiations over the new contract between King Soopers and the union.
In response to the lawsuit, King Soopers said "these allegations are just that, allegations, as King Soopers/City Market has followed the law and has not received any notice of wrongdoing from the National Labor Relations Board."
King Soopers is also alleging violations on the the union's part. The company is "in the process of filing unfair labor practice charges against the union president and Local 7 for its bad faith bargaining and tactics as well as pursing other legal action for unlawful conduct."
In response to the reports of legal proceedings in process against the union, Kim Cordova, President of UFCW 7, said “while the Union cannot comment on allegations it has not seen, I am confident that the Union will prevail in any legal proceeding, and we will vigorously defend the rights of our members. It is unfortunate that instead of delivering an industry-leading contract respecting, protecting, and paying essential grocery workers, King Soopers has instead chosen to try and silence the voice of its workers.”
The contract negotiations concern wage increases, healthcare, and benefits plans. In a statement before the strike vote, the union said King Soopers "failed to agree to important changes to wages, health care and safety," and that the proposal offered by the company "would result in serious funding issues for workers' health care plan, and cause significant benefit cuts."
The union is also accusing King Soopers of attempting to deceive the public and employees. Cordova claimed that during a bargaining meeting, King Soopers released "portions of a proposal to the media and employees," but shared "a different proposal with the union."
Cordova says the released proposal would have required employees to make concessions that would have increased health care premiums, allowed the company to hire gig workers, limited overtime, and led to an unsafe work environment.
The wage increase offered by King Soopers, according to the company, totals more than $145 million dollars over the next 4 years. The company provided News5 with an example of what this would look like.
The example employee given is a checker with 5 years of experience.
• Current wage $19.51 an hour
• 2022 +.50 cents = $20.01
• 2023 +.50 cents = $20.51
• 2024 +.50 cents = $21.01
• 2025 + .50 cents = $21.51
For a full-time checker their annual compensation would be nearly $45,000 annually.
On the corporate side, King Soopers parent company, Kroger, authorized a $1 billion stock buyback on December 30 in the middle of these contract negotiations.
Workers are currently scheduled to begin their strike Sunday, assuming the two parties do not come to a resolution in negotiations today and Wednesday. The union posted their planned strike pay on Sunday.