By Jesse Sarles

DENVER (CBS4) – Thousands of grocery store employees in the Denver area are on strike after negotiations between the union and King Soopers fell apart. The union says King Soopers and its parent company Kroger have “unfair labor practices.”

(credit: CBS)

King Soopers made a final offer on Tuesday in a lengthy bargaining battle with the company calling it its best offer. It included an investment of $170 million over the next three years going towards wage increases and bonuses for existing employees and starting pay of $16. The union called it insulting, saying it only amounted to pennies more, and rejected it with a 95% vote.

One King Soopers employee told CBS4 from the picket lines that several people in her family are King Soopers employees, including both of her parents.

“I’m standing out here. I’m not going to cross. If you cross, nobody wins here. If you cross, why did we bother going on strike,” said striking King Soopers pharmacy tech Angelica.

King Soopers grocery store workers wave at a passing car on Wednesday morning. (credit: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The union — United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 — is demanding better safety precautions, higher wages and affordable health care for employees.

King Soopers called the decision to strike reckless and self-serving. President Joe Kelley said “Local 7 is putting politics before people and preventing us from putting more money into our associates’ pockets.

“The most important thing right now is it’s not just about the wages, yes that is important, Denver have gone up in pricing on everything, but you need to look at the whole thing. We need health care. We just crossed 1,000 cases in King Soopers. There have been at least five deaths that we’re aware of. It’s affected everybody,” said Angelica.

All King Soopers stores remain open during the strike, which started at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

(credit: CBS)

UFCW’s strike impacts nearly 80 grocery stores in Colorado, including:

– Arvada (Sheridan Boulevard, Candelas Parkway, 64th Avenue, Wadsworth Boulevard, 58th Avenue)
– Aurora (Colfax Avenue, Hampden Avenue, Havana Street, Buckley Road, Peoria Street, Smoky Hill Road, South Parker Road, 17000 Iliff Avenue, Mississippi Avenue)
– Boulder (30th Street)
– Boulder/Gunbarrel (Lookout Road)
– Broomfield (Sheridan Boulevard, Highway 287, 136th Avenue)
– Centennial (Arapahoe Road, University Boulevard, Holly Street)
– Commerce City (62nd Avenue, 104th Avenue)
– Denver (Colorado Boulevard, MLK Boulevard, 1950 Chestnut Place, Quebec Street, Green Valley Ranch Boulevard, Florida Avenue, 2727 Evans Avenue, Monaco Parkway, 9th Avenue, Hampden Avenue, Sheridan Boulevard, Krameria Street, Speer Boulevard)
– Edgewater (Sheridan Boulevard)
– Englewood (Englewood Parkway, University Boulevard, Federal Boulevard, Sheridan Boulevard)
– Evergreen (Bergen Parkway)
– Federal Heights (84th Avenue, 84th Avenue)
– Glendale (Leetsdale Drive)
– Golden (South Golden Road)
– Greenwood Village (Holly Street, Yosemite Street)
– Highlands Ranch (Quebec Street, 3000 Red Cedar Drive, University Boulevard, Wildcat Reserve Parkway)
– Lakewood (Alameda Avenue, Alameda Parkway, 1555 Quail Street, Kipling Parkway, Wadsworth Boulevard)
– Littleton (Wadsworth Boulevard, Littleton Boulevard, South Broadway, Belleview Avenue, 6760 Pierce Street, Ken Caryl Avenue)
– Louisville (South Boulder Road)
– Parker (Cottonwood Drive, Lincoln Avenue, South Parker Road)
– Thornton (120th Avenue, 104th Avenue)
– Westminster (Wadsworth Parkway, Federal Boulevard)
– Wheat Ridge (Sheridan Boulevard, Youngfield Street)

About 8,400 unionized employees are now striking.

Jesse Sarles