On March 7, negotiations between representatives of King Soopers and City Market stores and the union that represents 12,000 of the outlets' employees broke down. Now the union says a strike vote may be looming.
A news release from UFCW Local 7 issued early this morning states that "members are forced to vote on a contract proposal that will damage their ability to care for their families and serve their customers. Because that proposal is unacceptable, Local 7 members will likely make the tough choice to authorize a strike to protect their families, their communities and their customers."
In mid-February, Chase Woodruff reported that while talks, which got under way in December, prior to the current contract's January 12 expiration, were ongoing, the two sides were far apart on a number of major issues. They included paid leave and sick days, workplace safety and particulars related to scheduling. Among the major sticking points was the union's assertion that King Soopers (owned by the giant Kroger corporation) had proposed ending daily overtime pay.
Over the past week or so, signs advertising for temporary workers began popping up in assorted King Soopers branches, though a spokesman for the company said they were removed on Tuesday, March 5.
They may be back soon. According to the union, a bargaining session collapsed yesterday evening when the King Soopers reps abruptly left.
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In a statement, UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova stressed that "UFCW members are proud to serve King Soopers and City Market customers. We are committed to making King Soopers and City Market a better place to work and shop, but we can’t do that without a partnership with the company.”
However, Cordova argued that "King Soopers and City Market's demands will not only hurt workers, but will also affect the customer service and shopping experience our communities have come to know and expect."
Citing "no raises for nearly half of workers, fewer full time jobs for our community and no access to sick leave for thousands of workers who handle your family’s food," she added, "We want the people who touch our food every day to be healthy and have access to quality health care. Any shopper knows that understaffing in stores makes their shopping experience more difficult and less pleasant. King Soopers and City Market can’t be a leader in quality service and quality food if it doesn’t provide better wages and benefits for the men and women who serve our customers."
No time line for a possible strike vote has been announced. A strike against King Soopers in May 1996 lasted 44 days.