By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Many regulars at King Soopers are choosing not to cross the picket lines and are taking their business elsewhere. Parking lots at the grocery stores around the Denver metro area were unusually empty Wednesday as workers began the first day of their strike.

“The people we saw going in today were a lot of Instacart workers and people trying to get their medications switched over to another store,” Anne Marie Gonzalez, a King Soopers employee. “I’m hoping it doesn’t last long. But I’m out here for the long haul till we have to be.”

While fighting for better pay and safer working conditions, Gonzalez remembers her coworkers lost to COVID and the potential dangers ahead if conditions don’t change.

“We’ve seen people we love pass away. Then there’s the shooting at the other store in Boulder. That’s another thing that’s scary because we’ll be working and hear somebody yelling up in the front of the store and it’s scary. We don’t know if they’re going to come in with weapons. We used to have security in here and it was great because we felt safe. And now we’ve got security that is not really trained,” said Gonzalez.

A few customers who chose to shop at King Soopers Wednesday told CBS4 they weren’t aware there was a strike going on.

“We thought it was some kind of protest going on. We found out it was a strike just now as we saw one of the signs up close,” said Scott, a King Soopers regular. “I definitely believe frontline workers deserve quality pay. I’m rethinking where I’m shopping now. There are other stores around I can choose.”

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

CBS4 spoke to customers in a Safeway parking lot in Denver. The parking lot there was full, and across the street was a nearly empty King Soopers.

“I never shop at Safeway. I always go to the King Soopers on Quebec,” said Rachel. “I’m a nurse at Denver Health in pediatrics. I was going to work every day and stopping at King Soopers on my way home they were there. We were we’re all out together.”

While customers say they miss their usual shopping experience, they don’t plan on going back to King Soopers until the workers’ demands are met.

Tori Mason