Read the letter from a King Soopers exec threatening a lockout if union workers strike Safeway

Yesterday, in the wake of a negotiating breakdown between Safeway and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, King Soopers employees were given a letter attributed to Dave Savage, vice president of retail operations for the firm. The document accuses the union of "recklessly pursuing a course that will lead to a strike or a lockout" -- and then, after enumerating several of what Savage sees as indications that pickets are about to go up, he writes, "If there is a strike against Safeway, King Soopers may be forced to lockout our associates... It is not something we want to do, but something we will need to do to protect our business." How to avoid this fate? Demand an up-or-down vote on King Soopers' latest contract offer and tell the UFCW to stop calling for a return to the bargaining table, because the union has "no intention of truly negotiating."

Surprise: UFCW spokeswoman Laura Chapin is no fan of this rhetoric. She notes that Safeway and King Soopers aren't acting like the competitors they're supposed to be, adding, "Lockouts are god-awful. You literally have people wanting to go to work finding a padlock on the door. These are people who want to go in and do their job and hopefully get a good contract, and their employer is physically depriving them of a way to support their family."

Look below to read Savage's letter in its entirety.

October 22, 2009

Dear Associate,

We are very concerned about recent statements by the union in letters and to the media. I want to assure you our goal is to get a good agreement for you. However, it appears that union leadership is recklessly pursuing a course that will lead to a strike or lockout. This is not fair to you. King Soopers associates have not voted for a strike.

Our concern is driven by:

• A recent letter dated October 13 where UFCW 7's outgoing president, Ernie Duran, says: "If it is not settled, I believe we should time the dispute from before Thanksgiving through Christmas, the biggest holidays of the year." Certainly a work stoppage at that time -- or any time -- would hurt King Soopers, but more concerning, it harms you.

• ProgressNow Colorado, an organization that supports the activities of UFCW 7, and its promotion of a website suggesting other stores for customers to shop if there is a strike. Surprisingly, most of ProgressNow's recommendations are non-union stores! The list includes Target, Costco, Whole Foods, 7-11 and Sunflower Farmers Market.

• A letter posted on UFCW 7's website that says: "the workers passed a motion for the strike to start as soon as final strike sanction is released from the International Union. International Union representatives stated they did not know when final strike sanction would be released, but it could be as early as a day or two."

If there is a strike against Safeway, King Soopers may be forced to lockout our associates, and the union knows this. It is not something we want to do, but something we will need to do to protect our business.

The only way to be sure there won't be a strike or lockout is for King Soopers' associates to ratify an agreement.

• Tell the union you want a chance to vote for an agreement, up or down.

• Tell the union no more ballots that offer, as an alternative, direction to go back to the table, since they have no intention of truly negotiating.

I thank you for patience and your service to our customers and King Soopers during this process. If you have questions, please talk to your store manager.


Dave Savage Vice-President, Retail Operations

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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.
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