After negotiating for 37 hours over the weekend, King Soopers and the union that represents the grocer’s Colorado workers reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Monday that could avert a strike.
The United Food and Commerical Workers Local 7 took to its Facebook page at 8:15 a.m. Monday to announce it had “secured a final offer” from King Soopers/City Market, the state’s largest grocery chain and the employer of 12,200 UFCW members. The agreement came after a round of all-night talks that started around 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
The deal is not done. Union members from across Colorado — many of whom voted earlier this month to authorize a strike — will begin voting next week on whether or not to ratify the contract. After weeks of blasting the company’s proposals in updates shared with members, union leaders struck a positive tone on the terms reached Monday.
“Today’s deal represents an important investment in King Soopers and City Market workers and strengthens our ability to continue providing shoppers with the high-quality customer service they deserve,” UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova said in an emailed statement. “The fact that this offer is significantly better than where we started in December is a tribute to the hard work of every member.”
King Soopers officials confirmed a tentative deal had been reached on the company’s website. UFCW Local 7 members work in 104 of King Soopers’ and City Markets’ 148 stores in Colorado.
“Thank you for your patience during this process and your commitment to serving our customers and community,” the company online statement reads.
Neither side has released the proposed contract publicly, but the union provided summary bullet points in a Facebook post and through a message recorded to its negotiations hotline Monday. Key terms include “solid wage increases for all workers,” stabled health care costs for the life of the contract, improved vacation time guarantees for workers hired since 2005, expanded dental benefits, improved leave policies and stronger job security for employees whose positions are at risk of being replaced by automation.
The contract also features an entirely new article with “extensive safety requirements and procedures” to make stores safer places to work. Pay increases achieved through the deal would be applied retroactively dating back to when the last contract between the two sides expired on Jan. 12, according to the union.
“Local 7 is currently seeking venues and dates to hold contract vote meetings,” the summary document says.
There were signs on social media that the deal will not be an easy sell for all union members. In response to the summary document, Facebook user Heather Kelly wrote, “So if the wage increase won’t pay for the high cost of living here, then it will have to be a no. Sick of starving.”
Another user, Duey Tran, wanted more information.
“Show me the money,” he wrote in the comments. “Why aren’t they showing the pay scale?”
The UFCW Local 7 did not plan to release any more information Monday, a spokesman said. The union is also in the middle of negotiating a new contract on behalf of members who work at Colorado Albertsons and Safeway stores. Talks with those companies are expected to resume next week.
King Soopers and UFCW have been talking about a new contract since mid December. After the previous contract ran out, workers continued under a temporary extension before voting to opt out of that arrangement in February as they pushed for a new deal.
Ubiquitous across the metro Denver, King Soopers and its sister chain, City Market, are part of the Kroger grocery empire. Kroger did a combined $121.2 billion in combined sales during the 2018 fiscal year.
Source: Denver Post