More than 8,000 workers in nearly 80 King Soopers stores went on strike for better pay on Wednesday as negotiations stalled, but the stores remained open as Kroger The co-owned Colorado chain hired temporary staff and foreign online ordering.
The strike started at 7:00 ET and would last for three weeks UFCW Local 7 union said. The striking workers are employed in King Soopers stores in the metropolitan area of Denver, Boulder, Parker and Broomfield, Colorado, among other places.
The strike is the latest of its kind in the United States, following similar demonstrations at Kellogg Co’s grain factories and Deere & Co, as rising Omicron infections and inflation are forcing workers to demand better working conditions and higher wages.
At King Soopers, workers have sought a pay rise of at least $ 6 an hour for everyone. The company’s “last, best and last offer” made on Tuesday suggested raises of up to $ 4.50 an hour based on job classification and employment conditions.
The proposal, which came after the union rejected two previous offers, allows for $ 170 million in investment over the next three years, more health care and a starting salary of $ 16 an hour.
It was lower than the $ 18 an hour King Soopers advertised for replacement workers at various locations, including Denver, Evergreen, Golden and Littleton.
UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova said the latest offer was “worse than previous offers in many ways,” noting that the new base salary was still only an ear above Denver’s minimum wage and asked for more concessions.
To limit the impact of the strike, Kroger said the grocery chain has recruited workers from across the country and hired temporary staff.
It also encouraged customers to shop online by reducing delivery fees to $ 1 for orders over $ 35 for a limited time, while also opening up alternative “offsite” pickup locations such as a parking lot in Lakewood, Colorado.
POLITICIANS SUPPORT STRIKE
The strike has received support from politicians, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Colorado State Senators Chris Kolker and Jessie Danielson, according to their comments on social media.
“Giant grocery chains like @Kroger have made billions in raising consumer prices. And they use that profit to reward managers instead of raising wages so workers can make ends meet. I stand with Kroger workers in their fight for a fair contract, “tweeted Warren.
A spokesman for Kroger said wages have grown before and during the pandemic, with the merchant raising its average hourly wage to $ 16.68 from $ 13.66 since 2017.
While many customers have also called for a boycott of Kroger, several others were concerned that increased wages could lead to higher product prices.
“I’ve been a King Soopers customer since 1962. I join striking union workers by not acting there until they accept the new contract that satisfies the workers,” said Denver resident Mark Simmons.
King Soopers operates more than 110 stores and is the No. 1 merchant in Colorado by market share, but its parent company Kroger does not disclose its sales.
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According to investment research firm CFRA, King Soopers / City Market stores in Colorado accounted for about 5% of Kroger’s annual sales of $ 132.5 billion.
The strike will affect product availability and market share as Walmart Inc and Albertsons Cos Inc are top rivals in Colorado, said CFRA analyst Arun Sundaram.
“We have already seen more sold-out items across supermarkets due to worker absenteeism and supply chain constraints caused by the Omicron variant,” he said.
“The strike will make it even harder for Kroger to rebuild the inventory on the shelves.”
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni, Devika Syamnath and Arun Koyyur)