Union rejects mediator in King Soopers negotiations; company files unfair labor practice charges

With less than two days left before a planned strike, the union representing King Soopers employees Monday rejected the company’s proposal to involve a federal mediator in contract talks.

Union members in the Denver area, Boulder, Parker and Colorado Springs voted last week to authorize a strike. The union said the strike on claims of unfair labor practices will start at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Colorado Springs employees won’t go on strike at this point because the contract for meat workers there hasn’t run out yet.

Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said the union doesn’t want to involve a federal mediator because it will bog down the process and negotiators won’t be face to face.
She said the union is willing to resume bargaining under the right conditions.

A federal mediator provides a third-party perspective to negotiators and can make suggestions, but doesn’t have the authority to impose a settlement or contract terms, according to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. 

Late last week, King Soopers asked the union about using a federal mediator said the company was willing to resume negotiations to consider the union’s proposal.

In an emailed response, Cordova said King Soopers had mistakenly declared negotiations at an impasse. However, she added that negotiators were willing to extend the deadline for the company to accept the UFCW Local 7’s proposal to 4:59 a.m. Wednesday, a minute before the strike is scheduled to start.

On Monday, King Soopers fired back by filing unfair labor practice charges against the union.

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Joe Kelley, president of King Soopers/City Market, in a news release that the union rejected “a reasonable request for mediation to work together toward a contract that will put more money in our associates’ pockets.”

“If Local 7 does not want to negotiate then they should at least have the decency to allow our associates to vote on the current proposal,” Kelley continued. “Our associates should be treated fairly and transparently and should have the opportunity to decide what is best for them and their families. Right now, Local 7 is using our associates’ livelihoods as pawns in their political gamesmanship.”

King Soopers has said the union’s call for a strike is “reckless” and “disruptive” and called its proposal “the best offer in King Soopers/City Market’s history.” The company said the offer includes $148 million for wage increases of up to $4.50 an hour in the first year, signing bonuses over the next three years and new investment in health care benefits.

But Cordova has said the proposed increases are insufficient at a time when many employees are struggling to make ends meet and staff turnover has forced some departments in the stores to close early because there aren’t enough workers.

The UFCW Local 7 has also said King Soopers and other grocery chains have reaped record profits during the pandemic, as more people stayed home and cooked, while workers risked their health by continuing to go to work every day. Employees received “hazard pay” early in the pandemic, but the extra $2 an hour …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Business

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