Strike at Kroger’s King Soopers stores imminent as union talks fail

Negotiations between Kroger’s (KR.N) King Soopers grocery store and the union that represents more than 8,700 workers at the Colorado chain have failed, setting the stage for a three-week strike starting from Wednesday.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 President Kim Cordova said on Monday that King Soopers has not yet provided the information the union needs to evaluate its proposal, according to an update livestreamed on Facebook.

The only proposal during the three days of talks was from the union, which the company representatives asked them to revisit, said Liz Wesley, a store manager at Colorado Springs who has spent 17 years with the grocery chain.

“The (company) is not taking our proposals seriously,” Wesley said. “We want a better contract for us.”

The company has filed unfair practice charges against the union for refusing to bargain in good faith, King Soopers said on Monday.

King Soopers operates more than 100 stores in Colorado and is the No. 1 grocery chain by market share in the state. Its sales have boomed during the pandemic, with shares of its parent Kroger (KR.N) hitting a record high last week.

Last month, King Soopers offered more than $145 million in new wages over the next four years, bringing the average hourly wage for 75% of associates to more than $18 and to over $20 for more than 50% of them.

The union rejected the offer, following which the company sweetened it to $148 million in wages and signing bonuses over three years.

On Jan. 7, a day before the contract between the company and the workers in the Denver metropolitan area, and the cities of Broomfield, Parker and Boulder ended, the union warned of a strike from 5 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Wednesday.

King Soopers sought the help of a federal mediator, but Cordova rejected the move saying “at this point in the process adding another presence is not going to be productive”.

This comes after the union last month filed a lawsuit against the grocery chain for violating an agreement by using third-party services to hire workers that then paid them wages starting at $16 per hour, more than the wage rate for many King Soopers workers.

The company said the union has not given any indication of when they will return to the negotiation process.