Business

King Soopers, Union Reach Tentative Agreement to End Strike

Scenes like this one, outside a King Soopers branch in southwest Jefferson County on January 20, will be a thing of the past.
Scenes like this one, outside a King Soopers branch in southwest Jefferson County on January 20, will be a thing of the past. Photo by Michael Roberts
The strike against Kroger-owned King Soopers, Colorado's largest grocery chain, by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, appears to be over. At 5:57 a.m. today, January 21, the union announced what it describes as a tentative agreement to end the work stoppage in metro Denver.

The release confirms that "UFCW Local 7 members will cease picketing after securing [the] new agreement." As a result, workers can return to their jobs today...and consumers who'd been observing the picket line can return to King Soopers, too.

Earlier this week, the prospects for a quick resolution seemed slim: King Soopers had asked for and was granted a temporary restraining order against Local 7 that limited the size of picket lines, among other things.

But at 10:54 p.m. yesterday, January 20, the union shared its most optimistic update about negotiations since the labor action started on January 12. "We are 13 hours in and we are still here negotiating with the company and we are making progress but we still have work to do," it said. "We will stay here all night if that's what it takes!"

Mere hours later, Local 7 is trumpeting a three-year pact "in principle" with King Soopers and City Market, its sister stores, which will "ensure that workers are respected and protected in the workplace, and compensated with wages they deserve as essential workers."

The contract is subject to ratification by Local 7’s membership, and the announcement offers no specifics about pay rates and the like. But Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 and vice president of UFCW International, has issued a lengthy statement.

"After months of negotiations and after our members walked out on strike, we have reached a tentative agreement with King Soopers/City Market that addresses the Company’s unfair labor practices and ensures that our members will receive the respect, pay, and protection they warrant," Cordova reveals. "This fight will always be about the workers. I could not be prouder of our members who put it all on the line to have their voices heard."

She adds: "All of us at Local 7 are proud to fight on behalf of our members who show up to work every day, keeping shelves full to feed their communities through this ongoing pandemic while barely making ends meet to feed and provide for their own families. We didn’t ask for this fight, but the Company chose to put profits over people for so long and failed to listen to the workers who made its success possible. Now, our members have the contracts they deserve and can be proud of."

Cordova stresses that "this would not have been possible without the support of our allies throughout Colorado and across the country. To those who supported our members by honoring the picket line and showing up in solidarity, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Details of the agreement are scheduled to be made public "in the coming days to the members, following ratification votes by UFCW Local 7 members beginning Monday, January 24," Cordova notes. The times and locations are to be determined, and the voting procedure will be closed to the press.

King Soopers president Joe Kelley has issued a statement of his own. "We are pleased that this agreement allows us to put more money in our associates’ paychecks and secures healthcare and pension plans," he says. "We look forward to welcoming back our associates and customers."
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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