Jan 12 (Reuters) - More than 8,000 workers at nearly 80 King
Soopers stores went on strike for better wages on Wednesday as
negotiations stalled, but the stores stayed open as the Kroger
Co-owned Colorado chain hired temporary staff and
promoted online ordering.
The strike started at 7:00 a.m. ET and would go on for three
weeks, the UFCW Local 7 union said. The striking workers are
employed at King Soopers stores in the Denver metropolitan area,
Boulder, Parker and Broomfield cities of Colorado, among others.
The strike is the latest of its kind in the United States,
following similar demonstrations at Kellogg Co's cereal
plants and Deere & Co as rising Omicron infections and
inflation push workers to demand better working conditions and
At King Soopers, workers have sought an increase in wages of
at least $6 per hour for all. The company's "last, best and
final offer," made on Tuesday, proposed raises of up to $4.50
per hour based on job classification and tenure.
The proposal, which came after the union rejected two
previous offers, provides for investment of $170 million in
wages over the next three years, more healthcare benefits and a
starting pay of $16 per hour.
That was lower than the $18 per hour King Soopers advertised
for replacement workers at various locations including Denver,
Evergreen, Golden and Littleton.
UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said the latest offer was
"worse than the previous offers in many ways," noting the new
base pay was still only pennies above Denver's minimum wage and
asked for more concessions.
To limit the impact of the strike, Kroger said the grocery
chain has brought in workers from across the country and hired
It also encouraged customers to shop online by reducing
delivery fees to $1 for orders worth over $35 for a limited
time, while also opening up alternative "offsite" pickup
locations such as a parking lot in Lakewood, Colorado.
POLITICIANS SUPPORT STRIKE
The strike has received support from politicians, including
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Colorado State Senators Chris
Kolker and Jessie Danielson, according to their social media
"Huge grocery chains like @Kroger have made billions by
jacking up consumer prices. And they're using those profits to
reward executives instead of raising wages so workers can make
ends meet. I stand with Kroger workers in their fight for a fair
contract," Warren tweeted.
A Kroger spokesperson said wages have grown before and
during the pandemic with the grocer raising its average hourly
rate of pay to $16.68 from $13.66 since 2017.
While many customers have also called for a boycott of
Kroger, several others worried that increased wages could lead
to higher product prices.
"I've been a King Soopers customer since 1962. I join
striking union workers by not shopping there until they agree to
the new contract which satisfies the workers," Denver resident
Mark Simmons said.
King Soopers operates more than 110 stores and is the No. 1
grocer in Colorado by market share, but its parent Kroger does
not disclose its sales.
According to investment research firm CFRA, the King
Soopers/City Market stores in Colorado accounted for about 5% of
Kroger's annual sales of $132.5 billion.
The strike will affect product availability and market share
as Walmart Inc and Albertsons Cos Inc are the
top rivals in Colorado, CFRA analyst Arun Sundaram said.
"We've already been seeing more out-of-stocks across
supermarkets due to worker absenteeism and supply chain
constraints caused by the Omicron variant," he said.
"The strike will make it even more difficult for Kroger to
replenish inventory on the shelves."
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Praveen Paramasivam in
Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni, Devika Syamnath and Arun