How imminent is a grocery-workers strike after latest contract rejection?

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Yesterday, the last votes by unionized Safeway workers were counted, and once again, they turned thumbs-down on a contract that struck plenty of employees as extremely familiar. According to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 spokeswoman Laura Chapin, "The most recent offer is virtually the same one they've been making for five months, and virtually the same one workers rejected in June, because it cuts pensions and freezes wages."

Does this verdict move the UFCW closer to an already-authorized strike? Chapin can't make any guarantees one way or the other, but she feels a number of cards remain to be played.

"There's one tweak people need to be aware of: They have not made a last, best and fnal offer," Chapin says. "They've made what they call a 'final' offer, but not a 'last, best and final.'"

To the layman, this may sound like an exercise in wishful thinking. But when it comes to contract negotiations, such distinctions in terminology have meaning -- except when they don't. "Back in, I think, 1993, there were something like six 'last, best and final' offers," Chapin concedes. For that reason, she believes "this is very much a negotiating process -- and the offer from the workers is still there: 'Please come back to the table and provide an offer that's more fair.'"

The current economy seems to make a strike less likely -- and it explains in part why many people interviewed for a recent Denver Post piece wouldn't pledge to change their shopping habits even if picket lines form. After all, workers from every walk of life have had to make do with less lately. Why should grocery workers be an exception to that rule?

In Chapin's view, the Post article didn't reflect the responses she's seen. "There are a lot of people who support grocery workers, including members of the faith community," she says. "And workers in stores, like checkers who may have been there for ten, twenty, thirty years, their customers are telling them, 'If there's a strike, we won't shop here.'"

As for the reasons why Safeway and King Soopers need to pony up, Chapin puts them in familiar exploited-worker terms. "These stores are making lots of money, and they're making money because of the workers who are there, and who've been there for years, and have contributed to the bottom line of profit. And what the workers are asking for is pretty minimal: the pensions they've already been promised and wages that'll actually provide them with a way to support their families and allow them to be a part of the economy." When it comes to salaries, for example, the UFCW wants a three-year pact in which employees at the journeymen rate earn 70 cents more per hour the first year and 35 cents additional each of the next two, with workers at other pay grades seeing increases of roughly the same proportion.

"The workers have made a number of counter-offers," Chapin goes on, "and the companies keep rejecting them and making the same offer over and over again. And, to paraphrase Einstein, they can't keep presenting the same bad offer and expect a different result."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.