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While grocery workers fret, their union bosses are busy fighting

Kim Cordova and Cindy Lucero, the president-elect and secretary-treasurer-elect of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, stood in front of the union's empty headquarters in Wheat Ridge this afternoon and, with an audience of a reporter and a single news camera, called the current president a thief.

"The current leadership is trying to steal the union election," said Cordova, a former Safeway worker who served as a union rep for 16 years until she was fired in May. "I'm here today to ask that Local 7 concentrate on negotiations and that the office politics stop."

Negotiations between grocery workers and the area's two largest grocery chains, Safeway and King Soopers, have been stalled for months. In September, union members voted to replace the current president, Ernie Duran Jr., with Cordova, who is scheduled to take office January 1 along with a slate of new union leaders. Duran is challenging the election results.

Union lawyer Crisanta Duran, who is Duran's daughter, today disputed Cordova and Lucero's accusations.

"We don't have the power to steal an election," she said by phone later in the afternoon. "It's going to be up to the Department of Labor to evaluate everything that happened.

"It's unfortunate that this group of disgruntled workers would attempt to air their personal vendettas, especially when we're still trying to get a contract for 17,000 workers and their families across the state."

Today's back-and-forth was just the latest in a months-long dispute that has each side accusing the other of some pretty bad stuff, including nepotism on the part of the Durans and vote-buying on the part of Cordova and Lucero.

But today, Duran himself didn't seem to want to engage in mudslinging.

After Cordova and Lucero delivered their statements -- calling the election challenge a "distraction" from contract negotiations and asking Duran to "honor the will of the membership" -- Duran pulled into the parking lot and walked toward the front door of the building, which was closed for Veterans Day.

"Mr. Duran!" called out Dave Minshall, who is handling media relations for Cordova and Lucero. But Duran looked toward the tiny group in the parking lot and -- saying nothing -- walked inside.

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