By Jamie Leary

UPDATE: King Soopers Strike Begins, Union Says Grocery Store Has ‘Unfair Labor Practices’

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union told media Monday it planned move forward with a strike despite pleas from King Soopers to meet once again at the bargaining table, in an effort to find common ground.

During a late afternoon news conference, UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said the union was finished bargaining with out of state representatives and lawyers and would only meet if local leaders with the grocery giant, like it’s president, sat down to negotiate.

“We think at this point King Soopers needs to face its workers,” said Cordova. “I mean we’ve had a deal with corporate lawyers from out of state we don’t want to add another entity into the discussion. We want local leadership, decision makers stake holders, to be at the bargaining table.”

(credit: CBS)

Cordova says the last time the president of King Soopers was present, it wasn’t enough to hear the union’s concerns.

“He showed up for one day for a whole nine minutes. He stayed, he came in. He waved. He shook some hands and then he left. He did not stay at the bargaining table to listen to the workers proposals,” she said.

Like many industries, King Soopers is also facing a pandemic-related worker shortage and employees have complained about safety issues as a result.

“We are understaffed… you do not have the coverage you need to keep you store safe, spills on the floor for hours that we can’t get to because were stuck in check stands; customers that are irritated because departments are closed and they take it out on us,” said one union member during Monday’s news conference.

While an overwhelming majority of union members across the metro and in Colorado Springs have voted to strike, there are some who believe there is still time to bargain instead.

“The union seems to be dead set on pursing a strike that is not going to actually end up helping the associates in the way that the union wants you to believe,” said Robert Tabacchi, a department head at a King Soopers in Highlands Ranch.

(credit: CBS)

Tabacchi has worked for King Soopers for 12 years and has been a member of the union the entire time. While he believes Cordova has done a great job getting her members raises and other benefits in the past, he thinks a strike is taking it too far.

“She’s gotten us increased wages. She’s gotten us a few paid holidays back. She’s gotten us extra vacation time, so she’s done a wonderful job and we don’t understand why she is so dead set on pursuing a strike that is going to be harmful and won’t get the results that she wants,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the office who are ready and willing to vote yes on Kroger’s current proposal. Personally, I do think there is room for improvement on Kroger’s end, however; if the union is unwilling to talk and negotiate in good faith those adjustments are never going to come to fruition.”

This is the biggest labor dispute for King Soopers since 1996, the last time the chain went through with a strike.

Picket lines are slated to roll out beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday at 78 stores across the greater Denver Metro area.

Jamie Leary