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Denver King Soopers Workers vote to strike

By Shaine Carroll

Denver, CO – Over 8000 employees of King Soopers, supermarket workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Local 7 Union (UFCW), voted to strike on March 15, after two days of voting and nearly three months of negotiations with the company.

UFCW and King Soopers, a subsidiary of the Kroger supermarket chain, negotiated for almost three months before the company walked out of negotiations on March 8. This wasn’t the first time the company had shown bad faith during the bargaining process, having previously walked out of negotiations numerous times in the past month. Additionally, management has engaged in union-busting tactics such as encouraging union members to resign their membership, as well as calling the police on union leaders for communicating bargaining updates to fellow members.

Throughout negotiations the union had been asking for increased base pay, first day paid sick leave, and an elimination of the two-tier system which discriminates against workers hired after 2005 by providing them with less pay and fewer benefits.

The company has ignored UFCW’s proposals and instead made a derisory counter-offer that would result in no pay raises for nearly half of its 12,200 workers. It would also mean decreased benefits and increased cost for healthcare, no pay raises or equal access to healthcare for courtesy clerks, who are disproportionately disabled, and inadequate funding of the company pension fund, putting retired workers’ pensions at risk. The company made this meager offer despite the fact that Kroger, King Sooper’s parent company, made more than $122 billion in profits nationwide last year.

The union membership has voted to authorize a strike, but workers won’t walk of the job until UFCW leadership officially calls the strike. The strike vote, backed by a large majority of the membership, may have strengthened the union’s position in any future bargaining.

“Please be advised that the King Soopers Meat and Retail Denver Bargaining Unit membership has overwhelmingly authorized the union to call a strike and reject King Soopers’ concessionary proposals. I encourage you to return to the bargaining table and seriously consider the workers’ proposals for a fair and livable contract,” stated UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova.

The overwhelming support for a strike authorization comes at a time of resurgence of union militancy all over the country. Just last month, Denver teachers stuck for better pay and conditions and had many of their demands met after only three days on the picket line. The authorization of a strike for King Soopers workers continues the fight for better pay and conditions in Denver and is a part of the struggle to maintain working class living standards across the country.

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