UPDATE: Jan. 26, 2022: King Soopers and City Market workers in the Denver metropolitan area have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with the grocer, according to a Tuesday statement from the Kroger-owned chain. The retailer said it intends to invest $170 million in pay increases and devote an unspecified additional sum to healthcare during the course of the three-year contract.
King Soopers associates elsewhere in Colorado will vote on the new contract before the end of January, according to United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7, which represents the workers.
UFCW Local 7 said the contract includes "the most significant wage increase ever secured by a UFCW local for grocery workers." The agreement calls for first-year pay boosts for longstanding employees, with some workers set to receive wage increases of more than $5 per hour, the union said in a statement, adding that the agreement "also creates new paths to full-time employment opportunities for King Soopers and City Market workers."
In addition to pay and healthcare improvements, King Soopers will provide protected pension benefits and "more stringent" workplace safety measures as part of the agreement, UFCW 7 said.
- Thousands of striking workers at Kroger's King Soopers and City Market supermarket chain in Colorado will be going back to work after the grocer struck a tentative agreement for a new contract with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 Friday morning.
- The deal ends a walkout that began Jan. 12 after the union rejected what Kroger had said was its "last, best and final" contract offer.
- The agreement between King Soopers and UFCW Local 7 follows a series of recriminations from the two sides that stemmed from a bitter dispute over wages, benefits and other terms governing their relationship.
Neither the union nor King Soopers immediately provided details on the accord they reached. In a statement issued Friday morning, King Soopers said UFCW Local 7 would lay out the terms of the "fully recommended tentative agreement" in ratification meetings with workers.
"It is a good agreement and we're proud the company and union bargaining committees were able to work together to reach an agreement that rewards associates and helps keep King Soopers/City Market competitive," the grocer said in the statement.
Workers have seven days to return to work, and meetings to vote on the new contract are "being scheduled," the union said Friday on Twitter.
The walkout, which had been set to last until Feb. 2, involved more than 8,700 workers at 78 stores, according to the union. The strike began after the union and Kroger both accused each other of refusing to negotiate fairly.
In a video posted Thursday on Twitter, as negotiations were underway, UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said the union was pushing back on contract terms offered by Kroger that would have reduced health insurance benefits for workers even as they paid higher premiums that outweighed any wage increase they might have received.
"What's at stake here is whether or not you have insurance for the next three years. Not just healthcare, but quality and affordable healthcare as you know it today," Cordova said.
Cordova added she was upset over a restraining order Kroger won in court that restricted picketing activities at its stores, which reportedly saw a sharp drop in traffic during the strike.
"They want the general public to believe that their workers are no longer essential heroes," Cordova said during the video.
Kroger's pending agreement with employees in Colorado follows a short-lived strike in December by workers at the retailer's Fred Meyer and QFC banners in Oregon. In that case, UFCW Local 555 said it had reached "the best contract" in its history with Kroger after earlier accusing the grocer of engaging in unfair labor practices multiple times.