8,400 King Soopers strikers fight over wages, two-tiers

By Karen Ray
and Valerie Johnson
January 31, 2022

ARVADA, Colo. — The strike by some 8,400 United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 members against the giant Kroger’s grocery chain King Soopers remains strong, with picket lines set up here and throughout the greater Denver area, from Boulder to Parker. Later this month more union contracts will expire in Colorado Springs and at the Kroger-owned City Market chain in Western Colorado. Local 7 members have voted to strike there if no agreement is reached.

“I think it’s corporate greed, I mean how much is enough? Kroger is getting more money than they ever had and cut labor down to nothing,” striker David Lassio, who has worked at three different King Soopers in Boulder for 20 years, told the Militant. “They need to share with us and give us a livable wage. Everything is going up and we have stayed the same.”

Parking lots are empty and regular customers are turning their cars around, honking their horns in support of the strikers. They went out on strike Jan. 12 for higher wages, safer working conditions, and to end the two-tier full- and part-time wage and benefit setup. This is the first time since 1996 the grocery workers have been on strike.

“Sales are dramatically down, especially in-store traffic,” Matthew Amerson, owner of Mayfair Liquors, which is located off the same parking lot as a King Soopers store in East Denver, told Denver7-TV. He said he’s sympathetic to the strikers, even if their action is affecting his business. “It’s an unfortunate situation if you work at a grocery store full-time and you can’t pay your rent, and buy groceries, and make your car payment.”

UFCW Local 7 held a strike rally of over 200 people in front of the Glendale neighborhood store Jan. 13. Strikers were joined by other unionists, including teachers and members of the Teamsters union, school board members, as well as some state and local elected officials. Teamsters Local 7 truck drivers are honoring the UFCW picket line, not making deliveries to any stores that are on strike.

The union and Kroger bosses resumed negotiations Jan. 14, but no progress has been made. “The offer King Soopers has on the table for workers today is even worse than it was in the days before the strike, ignoring virtually all of the proposals presented by workers,” the union said in a press release after talks that day. The company offered “no new economic gains — and even omitting the $4,000 sell-out bonuses which King Soopers had previously offered workers in order to get them to accept a concessionary contract.”

King Soopers is advertising for replacement workers, offering $18 per hour — in the range of the starting salary demanded by Local 7 and at least $2 more than the wage the bosses offered in their latest proposal. This is just 13 cents above Denver’s current minimum wage of $15.87. And the company also demands workers give up daily overtime pay and proposes to combine job classifications that would cut some workers’ wages by up to $3.34 per hour. Many workers say they depend on food stamps and other federal assistance in order to make ends meet.

Many workers are part time, a setup that lets the company pay them lower wages and less benefits. Workers can wait years before being offered full-time positions.

“We just got through COVID and just this week lost one of our members,” Janie Scarpello, a 42-year employee who works in an Arvada store, told the Militant. “We are ‘essential’ workers and the company is just being greedy.”