Business

What King Soopers Strikers Can and Can't Do After Judge's Order

The size of the Local 7 picket line in this January 17 photo is larger than allowable under the temporary restraining order.
The size of the Local 7 picket line in this January 17 photo is larger than allowable under the temporary restraining order. UFCW United Latinos via 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.

Striking members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 are having to adjust their tactics after a Denver judge granted a temporary restraining order to Kroger-owned King Soopers, Colorado's largest grocery chain.

On January 19, a week after the strike against metro Denver stores began, Local 7 shared a list of "Do's & Don'ts" related to the order. The last item on the roster: "Do NOT let the company win!! They want to paint you as lazy and obnoxious rabblerousers, but you are not. Prove the Company wrong."

In its January 18 Denver District Court filing, King Soopers had requested a TRO to squelch picketing and demonstration actions that it claimed were preventing the company from doing business. The motion included a list of eighty incidents during which Local 7 members allegedly went beyond their legal right to protest.

Less than 24 hours later, Judge Marie Avery Moses granted the temporary restraining order after hearing from attorneys on both sides. King Soopers had "demonstrated it has a reasonable probability of success on the merits," she noted, by establishing that "employees, customers and vendors have been threatened with violence and have been made to feel fear and intimidation; additionally, King Soopers has made a showing that the mass picketing has obstructed the ingress and egress of access to certain King Soopers stores."

Setting a hearing on the full motion for January 28 "if necessary," she concluded: "There exists a danger of real, immediate and irreparable injury that may be prevented by entry of a temporary restraining order."

King Soopers didn't get everything it wanted. Its request for the temporary restraining order called for "the maintenance of 5 or fewer pickets on the premises and perimeter of each one of Plaintiff's facilities," but Moses set the number at ten, "provided that such pickets shall not block or stand in front of entrances, shall not block or stand in front of vehicles entering or leaving King Soopers' facilities, including delivery vehicles, and shall not in any manner impede the ingress or egress of any vehicle, including delivery vehicles."

Also precluded: "Interfering with, injuring, menacing, threatening, molesting, intimidating, shouting at any person within 20 feet of that person, or physically obstructing, in any manner whatsoever, any person employed by King Soopers or any customer, supplier, visitor, officer, representative, for-hire carrier, or agent of King Soopers, or any other person with a lawful right of entry to King Soopers’ facilities," and "following any vehicle or employee of King Soopers or its customers, suppliers, and carriers, or any person leaving King Soopers’ facilities, off said premises in any manner whatsoever."

The union responded with the picketing guidelines, which remind members that "you have a right to peacefully protest, to share your message with the community and customers, and to be heard! For this right to be protected, you need to behave appropriately — no violence, no threats. The community is behind you, and they will continue to support you and your efforts if you play fair."

Strikers are encouraged to tell people why they're involved in the labor action, as well as to support their colleagues by chanting, dancing, marching, singing and having fun. As for the ten-person picket limit on King Soopers property, Local 7 reminds them that additional protesters can gather along public sidewalks and streets adjacent to stores.

Demonstrators are also asked to "be polite" and not shout in the direction of anyone unless they're more than twenty feet away, and to forgo drinking and drug use on the line; if supporters give them a beer, they're told to save it until after the shift.

Here's the full list of Local 7's "Picket Line Do's & Don'ts."
Click to read the document granting the temporary restraining order.
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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