On Monday, more than 8,000 local King Soopers employees and members of the United Food Commercial Workers United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 union approved a new contract with Kroger, King Soopers’ parent company. The three-year agreement includes pay raises, some as high as $5 more per hour, lower health care costs, easier access to pension benefits, and additional hours for sick leave, according to a statement from the union.
The new contract, which will also bolster security and safety measures in stores to address rising incidents of violence and an increase in COVID-19 cases, came after a nine-day strike by King Soopers employees at 77 locations across the Front Range. During that time, workers held picket lines during scheduled shifts, waving signs in front of the stores and asking customers to patronize other grocers. At one point, King Soopers even filed a restraining order against picketers for harassing customers and preventing them from entering parking lots and the store’s entryways.
“Getting here has been arduous,” Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7, said in a statement on Monday. “Now the [workers] have a contract they deserve and can be proud of.”
Joe Kelley, the president of King Soopers and City Market, said in a statement he is “grateful” that the two parties were able to bargain in good faith and reach a “good” contract.
Workers officially returned to their posts on Monday. In the aftermath of the strike, we asked three of them to reflect on what the past few weeks were like and what a new contract means for their futures.
Gigi Jones, bookkeeper and front-end supervisor at a King Soopers in Capitol Hill
“Being on the picket line was very emotional. It felt like a matter of wits. You really learn what you are made of out there. What do you need in your life? What’s worth standing up for? I was very happy to be able to do so. I am so proud of all of us, everybody that stood out in the cold and walked for hours. It was completely worth every minute of it.
It was kind of unnerving to walk into the store after being out for so long. But overall, I would say we’re in a pretty good situation. The majority of us are going to get up to a $3 raise. Not only that, but we are also awarded our sick pay. So, now we don’t have to just hold on to it, and jump through hoops to receive it. We just get it right when we need it.
Michaels, my other job, recently contacted me and said they were cutting my hours. And I thought, Well, I guess I am going to be OK now. It actually has allowed me some downtime to be with my family. It just feels better. Now, I can spend some time with my husband and my kids and, you know, stop and breathe and pet my dogs.”
Noah Segura, overall wellness counter employee at a King Soopers in Capitol Hill
“It was pretty much rinse and repeat our little formula for picketing. We did have a little snag those last couple days of the strike when [King Soopers] filed a restraining order. We were only delegated to, like, a little place just outside the parking lot where we were allowed to walk around. We had to keep moving or else it was legally considered loitering. We had a meeting with union reps in the morning letting us know not to overstep our boundaries.
I was pretty surprised by how fast they came to an agreement. I think once the restraining order happened, it did seem like something was gonna happen. I am still pretty surprised that it got resolved as quickly as it did.
Safety measures have been a big concern for us. Not even just with the pandemic but in general. We’ve had a lot of issues with safety, and I am glad to see they’re taking that into account. I think among us, this experience boosted our camaraderie. We all know we’ll take care of each other when it comes down to it. It’s almost like the people who were doing the work for these companies actually make a difference.”
Andres Becerril, front-end clerk at a King Soopers in Aurora
“I didn’t realize how big this thing was until I saw the media coverage. This wasn’t just a strike for some grocery store workers. This meant a lot to a lot of people. We were out there in the cold and the snow and the dark. During the pandemic, grocery workers didn’t have an option to stay home. The only thing a lot of people could do safely was go to the stores, being at the grocery store made people feel normal.
For me, what kept me going through the strike was proving that if we fought for something, we could get it. A lot of people are used to getting handed crumbs and told that that’s good enough. During this time, a lot of workers woke up and said, ‘No, we need something better than that.’
When I saw the contract on Monday, I was impressed. There are definitely bills I can catch up on now. I am going to pay off my car because of this new contract and that feels really good. It feels like a weight off my shoulders has been lifted. That’s what it’s all about. This wasn’t just a contract for grocery store workers. This was a way to ensure a lot of things could change.”