United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7
has confirmed that union members in Denver, Parker, Boulder and Broomfield ratified a new contract with Kroger
-owned King Soopers
, Colorado's largest grocery chain, on January 24.
While Local 7-affiliated employees across the state will be weighing in on the deal in the coming days, the vote in the metro area effectively ends a strike
that began on January 12
and lasted for nine days
. Picket lines went up at more than sixty stores
in the Denver area, affecting approximately 8,000 workers; the protests attracted national attention, including a video town hall co-starring U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The deal is expected to normalize operations at Front Range King Soopers outlets that have struggled with staffing and stock since a truce
was called on January 21. But because the final contract has not yet been made publicly available (just the expired pacts are accessible on the Local 7 website), we only know general details about the new agreement.
Local 7 describes the result as "the most significant wage increase ever secured by a UFCW local for grocery workers," which is said to include "first-year wage increases for longstanding employees. Some workers will receive wage increases in excess of $5 per hour," while most are expected to benefit from at least a $2-per-hour bump. Pay under contracts that expired on January 8 varied by worker specialty. But the expired agreement for Denver meat cutters
(one of fourteen such documents online) had set a starting hourly rate of $12.35 for the first 1,040 hours worked and rose to a maximum of $21.50 per hour.
The union adds that it "successfully negotiated better healthcare and protected pension benefits for its members, along with more stringent safety measures in the workplace to protect employees and customers." The contract also creates "new paths to fulltime employment opportunities" for employees at King Soopers and City Market, its sister stores, the union says.
Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 and vice president of UFCW International, offered the following statement: "From the beginning of this process, we promised our members that we would procure the very best contract we could. We are excited that our members voted overwhelmingly to ratify this industry-leading contract that will ensure King Soopers will respect and protect Essential Workers as well as pay them fairly. Getting here has been arduous. Full credit goes to the bargaining committee and workers who made their voices heard through negotiating, standing united at the picket line, or sharing their stories with the media. This fight was always about them, and now they have a contract they deserve and can be proud of. This would not have been possible without the support of our allies throughout Colorado and across the country. To those who stood alongside our members, honored the picket line, and showed up in solidarity, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
King Soopers, meanwhile, notes that the contract "invests in associates' wages, their healthcare and pensions." In a statement of his own, Joe Kelley, president of King Soopers and City Market, stresses that "our goal since day one has been to put more money in our associates' paychecks, and we are thrilled that our associates in the Denver metro bargaining area have voted 'yes' on this offer."
Union members in Colorado Springs are slated to vote on the contract Wednesday, January 26, with their peers in Pueblo taking their turn on Thursday, January 27, and Grand Junction workers doing the same on Monday, January 31.
Here's the video town hall featuring Bernie Sanders: