Workers at King Soopers stores in Englewood and Littleton joined thousands of others across the Denver area starting Jan. 12 in what is expected to be a three-week strike across 77 stores.
Since the start of the strike, workers have picketed outside the stores, saying they will not return to the job until the grocery giant commits to improving employees’ wages, health-care benefits and store safety practices.
UPDATE: Strike ends as tentative deal reached
The strike comes after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, a union that includes King Soopers employees, rejected the company’s “last, best and final offer,” which the union said fell far short of employees’ needs.
“The company has failed to adequately address these demands and continues to demonstrate a lack of appreciation for workers who put their lives at risk in the midst of a global pandemic,” according to a union press release.
Earlier in the week, King Soopers fired back after filing a claim accusing the labor organization of engaging in “bad faith” bargaining.
“If Local 7 does not want to negotiate then they should at least have the decency to allow our associates to vote on the current proposal,” King Soopers/City Market President Joe Kelley said in a statement, according to the Colorado Sun.
Theresa Wiberg, a strike leader for an Englewood store and member of the union’s negotiating team, said the company “was not bargaining in good faith.”
“They sent out a contract to the employees that was different from the contract that they gave us across the table,” she said. “They’ve been hiring gig workers to come in and stock our shelves, giving away our union jobs.”
Worth noting that the strike gained an endorsement from @CityofLittleton Mayor @Kyle4Littleton last week. pic.twitter.com/4kcHNg8ugw— Rob (@RobTann) January 18, 2022
Worth noting that the strike gained an endorsement from @CityofLittleton Mayor @Kyle4Littleton last week. pic.twitter.com/4kcHNg8ugw
Wiberg has worked for the company for 28 years, 16 of which have been at the store located at 101 Englewood Pkwy. She said King Soopers may appear to be making meaningful offers, but the caveats that come with it will ultimately hurt workers.
“Like them saying ‘hey, we’ll give you a pay raise but sorry you’re going to have to pay for your health benefits.’ So, you’re not really getting a raise even though it looks good,” she said.
Working amid COVID-19, which has now killed 840,000 people nationwide, has put employees at heightened risk, said Wilberg, who added the company needs to do more to protect their safety.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you make if you don’t go home at the end of the day,” she said. “We don’t have people sanitizing every day … there’s a lot of cases with COVID, it’s pretty scary.”
Wiberg said the store needs to update its safety measures across the board.
“We’ve had Kroger workers that have gotten killed by pallets of water falling over them because they’re stocked unsafe,” she said.
Ultimately, Wiberg said she hopes the strike will raise awareness among community members about the need to support essential workers like herself.
“They just need to respect us, pay us, protect us,” she said.
Littleton Mayor Kyle Schlachter on social media endorsed the strike.
“I support our workers and @UFCW_7 and will not cross the picket line!,” Schlachter said on Twitter.
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