On the second day of King Soopers grocery store workers striking against their employer, the parking lot at the 58th and Independence location was more empty than usual for an afternoon, the gas pumps were off, and about a dozen of the store’s employees waved to cars from the sidewalk, wearing picket signs and protesting after contract negotiations between the Kroger-owned company and UFCW Local 7 union representatives failed earlier in the month.
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Some vehicles driving by honked in solidarity. One passenger in a pick-up truck shouted, “Get back to work!”
An employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said after getting hours cut across departments, stalled or mediocre pay increases, and starting pay insufficient for hiring new employees at a living wage, she and her co-workers wanted to be “respected, protected and paid.”
UPDATE: Strike ends as tentative deal reached
Employed with King Soopers for more than 11 years, she manages her department but is paid hourly, and often works 50 hours a week due to scheduling gaps from unfilled positions.
“I joked that I was going to give my kids of picture of myself for Christmas because I was working so much they forgot what I looked like.” she said. With four children between ages two and 10, the Arvada resident said she barely makes ends meet, even with overtime.
“I make too much for food stamps but not enough for living,” she said.
Inside the store, the isles were quiet. The self checkout scanners were closed. There were two cashiers but no customers in line, and no security guards evident. The handful of shoppers had the place to themselves, and most were seniors. A dad shopping with his young son said he crossed the picket line because he simply needed groceries for his family. Another man picking out produce, who declined to give his name, said he needed dog food and had no qualms crossing the picket line. Again, he just needed groceries.
The deli and butcher counter were both dark. Packages of fresh, boneless, beef steaks were piled at the end of a meat cooler, marked down with a “reduced” sticker because of the approaching sell by date.
In the dairy department, shelves were being stocked by a salaried assistant manager who traveled from another store to help during the strike. Despite rows of gallons of milk virtually untouched, he explained the shelves would stay stocked and the produce rotated. It was only day two of the strike, and as it dragged on, the customers would come back. “People need food,” he said.
Once an hourly employee himself, he empathized with the striking workers, but said he believed the upper management “wanted everyone to come back to work making a living wage. I’d say it’s sincere.”
Back outside, the picketing continued. Tired after showing up to the sidewalk before sunrise, the striking department manager said despite feeling replaceable, she still felt loyalty to her job.
“I love what I do and I care about my customers, and in order to keep my department to the standards we have, I need people to come to work for me,” she said. Looking over to the other employees on the sidewalk picket line, “And these people, well, they’re my family.”
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