By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) – King Soopers president Joe Kelley says the company is ready to meet to bargain immediately, but has not heard from UFCW Local 7 union since it presented its “best and final offer” on Tuesday and a strike began at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

“They have not been to the table since last Thursday at 3:30 in the morning. We still have people at the table, we still have people in the room waiting to negotiate in good faith,” said Kelley.

Joe Kelley (credit: CBS)

The grocery giant upped a $148 million wage investment package to $170 million on Tuesday, the largest investment it has made in wages in history.

Union President Kim Cordova talked to CBS4 Wednesday as strikes were rolling out. They are aware of the offer on the table and said it’s riddled with contingencies based on negotiations happening right now with competitors, Albertsons and Safeway.

“They’ve only shown them [employees] a wage sheet. They’re not showing them the concessions where they have in their proposal that they could pull the wages backwards and so while they’re telling the company, our communities, the media, that they’re offering $170 million worth of wages, if their competitors offer less money than the contracts these workers vote on, would be reduced to a lower contract,” said Cordova.

UFCW Local 7 said contracts with Safeway and Albertsons have been extended and negotiations are ongoing.

Kelley says he doesn’t understand why once contracts with various King Soopers stores ended, it went straight to a strike vote.

“We increased the wages from $148 million to $170 million and that’s in addition to the health and welfare medical plan that we have on the table which is a solid plan, and they also have a pension,” said Kelley. “We pay $72 million in health care every year. We actually are increasing that by another $19 million this year in this contract over three years and as a matter fact, our associates have not had a premium increase on their health care in 11 years.”

Cordova says the offer on the table isn’t transparent and believes the company can do better. For instance, the union is asking for starting wages of $18.56 an hour, King Soopers is offering $16.

King Soopers grocery store workers walk the picket line as they strike at more than 70 stores across the Denver metro area on Jan. 12, 2022 in Denver. (credit: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The union also wants more safety precautions such as pandemic hazard pay and armed security to protect workers from what it says are increasing cases of violence across its stores.

“These stores have unsafe working conditions. They have guards today to protect their assets while we’re on strike, but they can’t put guards out here to protect their workers from the crime and violent crime that we’re seeing in the stores, some unruly behavior where our workers are being slapped, spit on, pushed, attacked, beat up. These stores are getting robbed, but they won’t protect them,” said Cordova.

Cordova says the strike will persist until the union requirements are met but Kelley says he’s worried the picket lines will do more harm than good.

“It’s supposed to go three weeks long, associates will lose their benefits for the month of March. They have to work 100 hours in order to have benefits in a five-week month,” said Kelley. “Unfortunately, nobody wins in a strike. Not our associates, not our communities, not the union and not the company.”

UFCW’s strike impacts nearly 80 grocery stores in Colorado (which all remain open) 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)

Jamie Leary