The flyer said United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 7 is "making preparations for Colorado Springs to join the strike," which was launched early Wednesday at 78 Denver-area supermarkets owned by the chain. It wasn't clear whether any action was imminent, however; a union spokesman said by text that Local 7 would provide updates within the next day.
Union members in Colorado Springs voted nearly unanimously Jan. 3 to authorize a strike. But the strike Wednesday only affected the Denver-area stores.
Workers in meat departments of King Soopers stores in Colorado Springs and several other cities, including Pueblo, remain under separate contracts with the company that don’t expire until Feb. 19.
While contracts covering workers outside the meat departments in the chain’s Colorado Springs-area stores expired Saturday, calling a strike against those stores could force meat department workers to cross a picket line unless Local 7 asks workers here to walk off the job but not picket.
King Soopers announced Wednesday its stores, including those Local 7 is striking, remain open to "continue delivering on their (the company's) commitment to provide fresh food and other essentials to the communities they serve," according to a news release.
The chain, owned by Cincinnati-based grocery giant Kroger, called the union's strike "reckless and self-serving" in the release. Jessica Trowbridge, a King Soopers spokeswoman, said the stores are being staffed by a combination of replacement workers and employees from other Kroger divisions.
Local 7 President Kim Cordova predicted last week that King Soopers would “not be able to continue to provide the service necessary to keep those stores running.”
The company and many other retailers have battled labor shortages, but King Soopers had been advertising since early December for replacement workers that would start at $18 an hour, or $5.44 more than the current starting wage for union members.
More than 8,700 union members walked off the job at 5 a.m. Wednesday. That is a bit more than half of the 17,000 King Soopers employees represented by Local 7. King Soopers and City Market, which operates in western Colorado and also is owned by Kroger, employ more than 22,500 statewide, which besides union members also includes management-level positions and employees at a handful of stores not represented by Local 7, including one in Monument.
Local 7 on Tuesday rejected what King Soopers called its "last, best and final offer," and declined to put the offer up for a vote of union members. The company valued its offer at $170 million over three years, which increases its starting wage from $12.56 (Colorado's minimum wage) to $16, and up to $4,000 in “ratification bonuses” for employees. That's $22 million higher than the previous offer.
Local 7 made its “comprehensive” offer late last week that called for immediate wage increases for workers of at least $6 an hour and $1.50 an hour increases in the second and third years of the proposed contract.
No contract talks have occurred since Friday. The union and King Soopers have filed unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board for failing to bargain in good faith.
Local 7 sued in federal court in Denver last month, alleging King Soopers violated its contract by using contract employees to stock shelves and perform other duties reserved for union members.
Local 7 also represents workers at Safeway stores in Colorado. The chain, which is owned by Albertsons, said in via email that the company and Local 7 "have mutually agreed to extend their labor contracts as the two parties work to reach new agreements." Safeway's contracts with the union would have expired Saturday without the extension.