Eight thousand workers at the King Scoopers supermarket chain in the Denver metropolitan area ended a two-week strike January 24 with a three-year contract that sees many gains in their pay and working conditions.
They Can’t Run Without Workers
The strike showed “the company they can’t run without workers,” triumphantly declared Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union representing King Scoopers employees. “The real power is with the people. We hope to set the bar so other workers will follow suit, and so that when enough is enough, they take a stand.”
King Scoopers stores is a subsidiary of the Kroger and Albertson chains which also owns Safeway stores.
Under the new contract, workers at King Scoopers will get raises of $2 to nearly $6 an hour, depending upon their positions. The company will contribute a larger share of health care costs and better guarantees on pension plans. Agreeing to a union demand, the company will implement better health measures in the current pandemic and better safety members to protect workers from violence in the stores. Workers had complained about undersized staffing that was putting an undue burden on them and jeopardizing their safety. In the new contract, King Scoopers agreed to hire 500 additional full-time workers within 90 days.
On the issue of safety, workers cited violent incidents in the current atmosphere of tensions raised by the pandemic. “I have had a guy with a machete run through my department threatening people,” recalled Liz Wesley, a worker in the floral department. “There was the Boulder store shooting. It is a real threat, a real worry for people in these stores.”
Strike Got Wide Support
The terms of the agreement is a far cry from the company’s initial demand for concessions that would have resulted in higher health care premiums for workers, caps on sick leave of six days a year and a lifetime cap of only 12 days. The company had also demanded a reduction in overtime pay. Their demands, the union pointed out, comes at a time when it is recording record profits and could well afford the union’s gains.
A key element in the union win was the wide support it received, noted Local 7 President Cordova. “This would not have been possible without the support of our allies throughout Colorado and across the country. To those who stood alongside our members, honored the picket line, and showed up in solidarity, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” she said.