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'This Is Kroger Now:' Union Says King Soopers, City Market Strike Likely Sooner Than Later

King Soopers
Jackie Hai
King Soopers has stores in Fort Collins (above) and dozens of other communities across the state. The company employs around 23,000 people in Colorado.

Updated at 4:36 p.m.

King Soopers and City Market released details of its contract offer to UCFW Local 7 on Friday, saying it wanted to set the record straight on what is being offered.

The move comes as the possibility of a strike looms large and bargaining plans take shape for over the weekend.

"We are concerned that our Denver associates may not have been presented the offer on the table as it was intended," the company said in a statement. "The offer shows the company is investing more than $117.5 million in wage increases, health care, and pension benefits."

The offer includes the following:

  • A contract ratification bonus of $250 for part-time employees and $500 for full-time
  • Head clerks, department managers, assistant department heads will receive a $0.35 raise per year — a $1.05 raise over the three-year contract
  • Lower-level employees will receive at least $0.25 raises as they move up the ladder
  • Current health care benefits will continue with no increases to premiums. The company will front any increased costs over the next three years
  • Increased pension contributions
  • No change to overtime rules
  • Improved sick pay and vacation, including new benefits for employees hired after 2005 and four weeks of paid vacation after 12 years of continuous employment

The company also said it requested a federal mediator, but was denied by UCFW Local 7 president Kim Cordova.
The original story continues below.

The union representing thousands of King Soopers and City Market employees in Colorado is inching closer to calling a strike as plans take shape for a new round of negotiations this weekend.

In an interview with KUNC, Kim Cordova, president of United Commercial Food Workers Local 7, said the move to strike is now “very possible.”

“If (the company) just comes to the table again without trying to seek any type of progress then, yes, the possibility is there and it will happen sooner than later,” Cordova said.

The union’s Denver unit voted overwhelmingly last weekto authorize a walk-out if leadership makes the call.

While the company maintains its current offer to employees provides adequate pay increases, a stable pension and no increases in healthcare costs, UCFW Local 7 says it lacks long-term commitments to sustain many of those benefits. KUNC has not been able to review a copy of the company’s current offer.

Adam Williamson, a spokesman for King Soopers, said the goal this weekend — should negotiations take place — is to come together, have a conversation around the proposal and come to a final agreement.

“It comes down to no one wins in a strike, right?” Williamson said. “I mean, when I say no one, it's our associates. It's the customers. It's the community. It's not just the stores.”

Cordova, who also bargained contracts with the company in 2011 and 2015, said the back-and-forth this year has been significantly different from past negotiations. For example, she said, Kroger brought in a lawyer from California instead of having local leadership at the table.

“Really what I see is that it's really no longer the King Soopers we once knew,” she said. “This is Kroger now.”

King Soopers operates 159 stores in Colorado and is headquartered in Denver. Grocery giant Kroger bought the chain in 1983.

Williamson said the company has shared a copy of the current offer with store management teams so they can share it directly with individual associates.

“As our associates get to know every detail within the contract — it’s making sure that they understand the ins and outs and every detail because it is complicated,” he said. “As they get to know the details I think there will be less frustration.”

KUNC will update this story as plans for weekend negotiations materialize.

I cover a wide range of issues within Colorado’s dynamic economy including energy, labor, housing, beer, marijuana, elections and other general assignment stories.
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