Workers on the picket line wave to passing cars outside a Denver King Soopers, amid a strike over stalled bargaining talks on Jan. 12, 2021. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)
More than 8,000 striking King Soopers employees will return to work as soon as today following a tentative agreement reached by the grocery chain and members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, ending a 10-day walkout in protest of unfair labor practices.
UFCW Local 7 and King Soopers announced the three-year agreement early Friday morning. The strike, which began on Jan. 12, will end immediately, but the agreement is subject to a ratification vote by union members beginning Monday. Details of the contract have not yet been publicly released.
“This fight will always be about the workers. I could not be prouder of our members who put it all on the line to have their voices heard,” union president Kim Cordova said in a statement. “All of us at Local 7 are proud to fight on behalf of our members who show up to work every day, keeping shelves full to feed their communities through this ongoing pandemic while barely making ends meet to feed and provide for their own families.”
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The agreement closely follows an injunction issued against striking UFCW workers by a Colorado court on Wednesday. Judge Marie A. Moses granted in part a temporary restraining order sought by King Soopers against union picketers, over what the company said was a pattern of harassment of customers and non-union employees. Moses’ order limited the number of picketers outside each King Soopers location to ten.
UFCW Local 7 members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike earlier this month, following months of stalled negotiations with King Soopers and its parent company, Kroger, over a new contract. The two sides struggled to come to an agreement on issues including wages, health and safety protections for employees and the company’s two-tier payroll system.
A survey of more than 10,000 unionized Kroger workers nationwide, released this month by nonprofit research group Economic Roundtable found that more than three-quarters of the grocery giant’s employees qualify as “food insecure” based on federal criteria, and more than 1 in 8 reported experiencing homelessness within the last year.
“We are pleased that this agreement allows us to put more money in our associates’ paychecks and secures healthcare and pension plans,” Joe Kelley, president of King Soopers and City Market, said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming back our associates and customers.”
Support for picketing workers came from many high-profile community members and Democratic lawmakers this month, and UFCW Local 7 said Friday it was grateful for those who refused to cross its picket lines.
“Now, our members have the contracts they deserve and can be proud of,” Cordova’s statement continued. “This would not have been possible without the support of our allies throughout Colorado and across the country. To those who supported our members by honoring the picket line and showing up in solidarity, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
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