Business

King Soopers Strike, Day Seven: Battle for Hearts and Minds

A photo of King Soopers strikers shared on January 17 by UFCW Local 7.
A photo of King Soopers strikers shared on January 17 by UFCW Local 7. UFCW Local 7
Editor's note: The members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 have ended their labor action against King Soopers. Get details in our post "King Soopers, Union Reach Tentative Agreement to End Strike." Continue for our previous coverage.

The latest negotiations session between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 and Kroger-owned King Soopers, Colorado's largest grocery chain, over the ongoing strike appears to have been a marathon. On January 17, day six of the walkout, the two sides were scheduled to sit down at the Denver Tech Center Marriott around 3 p.m., but Local 7 didn't post its "bargaining update" until 12:42 a.m. today, January 18.

"We concluded for the night," the item reads. "No progress, but we will return tomorrow morning to the DTC Marriott."

In the meantime, the battle for the hearts and minds of customers continues, with King Soopers attempting to transmit its messages via a barrage of television commercials and the union pushing back on social media.

Offering a boost to Local 7 yesterday was Mayor Michael Hancock, who slipped a pro-labor message into a speech marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Early on the holiday, reports surfaced that organizers of the annual MLK Day Marade had removed King Soopers as the sole sponsor of the event. (According to 9News, the company isn't asking for a refund of its sponsorship contribution "because love should always be bigger than hate.") Shortly after, Hancock delivered remarks at the annual MLK Marade that echoed King's famed "I have a dream" speech, saying at one point: "I have a dream today that you will go to King Soopers not to cross a line, but to stand with those workers and say to them, 'Thank you for seeing us through COVID.'"

The quote appears toward the end of the brief second video below, as tweeted by Hancock:
King Soopers has not yet released a statement about the January 17 talks or the Marade sponsorship; the most recent post on its Facebook page was added on January 11. That item pertains to delivery discounts that would presumably allow patrons to order from King Soopers without having to cross a picket line. It reads: "We want to make sure our community can still get the fresh groceries and essentials they need at this time. We're providing $1 Delivery and alternate Pickup locations to make sure that happens."

The company is also advertising heavily on local TV stations, alternating familiar animated spots using the hip-hop party staple "Get Low," repurposed to reference bargain prices, with a spot in which managers discuss the many opportunities for advancement that King Soopers offers. (Note that most supervisors aren't among the estimated 58 percent of employees who are union members.)

For its part, Local 7 has been using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to distribute photos and videos of demonstrating workers waving signs and posing with politicians such as District 31 candidate Said Sharbini. Most posts include text about "standing strong" and hashtags such as "#dontshopkingsoopers" and "#dobetterkingsoopers."

In addition, the union offered this MLK Day tie-in: "The day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, he gave a speech in support of the sanitation workers who were on strike. Today we have more than 8,000 workers who are on strike fighting for dignity & respect like our sisters and brothers before us. As we honor Dr. King today, let us remember his words, 'All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.'"
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts