King Soopers and the union representing the grocery chain's workers have agreed to resume contract talks Friday.
The resumption of talks comes after Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, sent a letter Thursday to King Soopers President Joe Kelley that said the union was "prepared to resume negotiations" and had reserved meeting space Friday in a Denver hotel for a bargaining session.
That session comes after the union on Wednesday launched the first grocery strike in 25 years against Denver-based King Soopers and more than 8,400 workers walked out of 77 Denver-area stores.
In her offer to resume talks, Cordova requested Kelley attend the negotiations "to make for more fruitful discussions." The union has complained that Kelley, who took the job as King Soopers president last fall, showed up for just nine minutes of talks early in the negotiations.
King Soopers officials said Thursday via email they're glad the union wants to resume talks, and later clarified that they indeed would resume bargaining with Local 7 on Friday.
"We are pleased that after nearly a week the union has finally responded to our request to meet," the King Soopers statement said. "We look forward to returning to the bargaining table to resume negotiations and find a deal that puts more money in our associates' paychecks."
The union hasn't expanded the strike outside the Denver area. That might be because workers in the meat departments of King Soopers stores in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and several northern Colorado cities remain under separate contracts with the company that don't expire until Feb. 19.
However, Local 7 said Tuesday in a flyer posted on its website that it is "making preparations for Colorado Springs to join the strike." It wasn't clear whether any action was imminent.
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. Union members in Colorado Springs voted nearly unanimously Jan. 3 to authorize a strike.
Cordova predicted last week that King Soopers would “not be able to continue to provide the service necessary to keep those stores running.”
She said Thursday via email, "as of today, our picket lines are holding strong" and would remain in place even as negotiations resume.
Many workers who walked out of Denver-area stores Wednesday remained on the picket lines. Others gathered Thursday afternoon across the street from a Glendale King Soopers for a rally asking for change and supporting fellow union members.
Picketers draped signs around their bodies asking for consumers to shop elsewhere.
Carol McMillian, a union member who works for King Soopers, asked the the chain to demonstrate loyalty to its workers.
"They're not asking for the sun and the moon or the stars," McMillian said. "We're asking for fair pay, affordable healthcare and a safe workplace."
Cordova talked during the rally about an increasing number of union members who work at the grocery chain suffering from homelessness, possible eviction and hunger, among other issues.
"Our members, they're not thriving, they're not living the American dream, they're struggling," she said. "We're doing the job of two to three to four people. We're getting spit on and pushed for asking customers to put on their masks."