DENVER (CBS4) - Only hours are left until thousands of unionized King Soopers employees walk off the job as part of a bargaining battle with parent company Kroger. On Tuesday, the company said it made a "best and final" offer hoping to prevent the looming strike.
"All the money is on the table right now," said Jessica Trowbridge, corporate affairs manager for King Soopers and City Market.
According to a release from King Soopers, that offer included an investment of $170 million over the next three years going towards wage increases and bonuses. The company also said it was proposing a separate investment in healthcare benefits that would result in "zero impact to associates current healthcare premiums" based upon current projections.
"No one wins in a strike. Our associates don't win, our customers don't win, and it does make it more difficult to operate our business," Trowbridge said.
Shortly before 5 p.m., the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 declined the offer. By a 95% vote, the union will strike "against King Soopers/Kroger for its unfair labor practices, and the Union will move forward with the strike at 5 AM on January 12, 2022."
"Clearly, King Soopers/City Market will not voluntarily meet the needs of our workers, despite our repeated pleas for the Company to listen to the voices of our members," said Kim Cordova, President of UFCW Local 7. "We strike because it has become clear this is the only way to get what is fair, just, and equitable for the grocery workers who have risked their lives every day just by showing up to work during the pandemic."
The strike will involve about 8,400 workers and about 78 stores. Already, stores have been operating with roughly 2,400 fewer employees.
The union provided a list of dozens of the stores taking part across Colorado.
In anticipation of the strike, Trowbridge said King Soopers has brought in staff from other divisions and started hiring hundreds of temporary workers. The company plans to keep every store location open.
Ahead of Wednesday, some customers at the King Soopers in Capitol Hill said they plan to continue shopping with the company during the strike, while others said they won't cross the picket line.
"I'm sure some people in the older generation will see it as a red flag or something, but I think a lot of people my age don't mind crossing a picket fence to get food," said Arthur Leduc.
"I support them 100 percent, so I will be shopping somewhere else until their demands have been met," said Andrew Fox.
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