By Jamie Leary

UPDATE: King Soopers Reaches Tentative Agreement With Union To End Strike

(CBS4) – Wednesday marked the 8th day of the King Soopers strike, and storefronts were significantly quieter. Part of the reason was likely the bitter cold weather, but another reason? A restraining order filed by King Soopers in Denver district court Tuesday. 

“We’ve been having to trudge up and down the entryway … not even next to it. We’re not allowed within so many feet of it now,” said Andres Becerril a union member and head clerk for King Soopers.

The order specifically states that employees on the picket line are prohibited from:

• Impeding the ingress or egress of any customer, employee, vendor, or vehicle; b. 
• Picketing, congregating, loitering, or gathering in front of, on, or near King Soopers’ facilities in any manner other than by the maintenance of 10 or fewer pickets on the premises and perimeter of each one of King Soopers’ facilities,
• Interfering with, injuring, menacing, threatening, molesting, intimidating, shouting at any person within 20 feet of that person, or physically obstructing, in any manner whatsoever

King Soopers made numerous allegations regarding the actions of those on the picket lines, some listed in the temporary restraining order include: preventing customers from parking in handicap parking spaces, aggressively approaching customers while the customers are in their vehicles; refusing to allow customers into the store, referring to employees utilizing a racial epithet, physically blocking the entrance of children to a store, making the children fear for their safety, making offensive comments regarding the genitals of a customer, yelling and coming within a foot of customers faces during the COVID pandemic, throwing a picket sign in the vicinity of a customer, and leaving nails near the tires of an employee’s vehicle.

“I have not seen anything like this at my store,” said Becerril. “We have been extremely peaceful we haven’t disrupted anything we haven’t had the cops called on us.” 

This was also confirmed by an on-duty security guard who has been working at the store since the picketing began. 

On Wednesday, King Soopers sent out a chart detailing the differences between what the union was asking versus what it was offering. For a checker of 5 years, there was a discrepancy of around $9,000 the first year, ending with a gap of about $12,000 by 2024.

(credit: CBS)

“The free market determines wages and sometimes it’s not pretty — and its imperfect, but it’s really the best determinate of what the fairest wages are. The market adjusts to the cost of living and the cost of living has skyrocketed here, so it’s going to take a while for the labor market to adjust to that and so that’s really not something that really King Soopers can handle. Or Safeway or Costco or whatever retailer we’re talking about,” said Darrin Duber-Smith, Senior Lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Duber-Smith says while the union can help employees with better wages, the more retailers have to raise wages, the more they look to cut corners in other ways, and the less likely they are to raise wages down the road.

“It’s not necessarily the job of King Soopers to raise their wages above what the market will bear, and really what the company can afford, and I think the other side of this that people need to understand is that when wages go up, the number of jobs go down,” he continued, “that’s the way it is and when a cost becomes prohibitive on a company, the cost becomes too high, the company begins to look for substitute. This is just one of those things that happens. And labor is one of the largest costs for these types of companies. And so, when you also have inflation pressing prices up, you know and the cost of having to deal with the pandemic, those are huge costs on retailers, it’s really a triple whammy for these organizations to be able to adjust.”

Still King Soopers’ parent company, Kroger, saw skyrocketing profits during the pandemic. For Becerril, it’s not about current trends in the overall market, it’s about setting a new precedent for wages. Even if it does have an impact on retail operations. 

“For me I feel like King Soopers could really be the change for all of it. They could put their foot toward something right and start showing that things could be made better. Corporations have the power to make things better if they so feel like it,” he said. 

The temporary restraining order in in effect until Jan. 28th at 9 a.m., when both parties are set to meet in court. For more details on the order, click here: courts.state.co.us

Jamie Leary