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Are King Soopers shoppers staying away amid strike? Empty lots, stores seems to show support strong

Picketing workers outnumber customers at metro-area King Soopers stores
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Posted at 12:58 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 21:29:27-05

DENVER — If you want to see how the strike is impacting business at King Soopers, just drive by your local store. What would normally be nearly full parking lots are sitting almost empty, based on several locations Denver7 visited Wednesday morning.

Denver7 went to seven locations in south Denver, west Denver, Edgewater, Glendale and Wheat Ridge to get an idea of how a UFCW Local 7 strike that began Wednesday morning is affecting the state's largest grocer.

MORE | King Soopers Strike: How your store could be impacted

Driving up to the locations, shoppers are greeted with striking workers holding up picket signs at every entrance to the parking lot. The occasional supportive honks can be heard from passing motorists.

Once in the parking lot, shoppers who choose to cross the picket line will have plenty of spots to choose from as the two locations Denver7 visited appeared to be less than a quarter full.

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King Soopers at 6470 E. Hampden Ave. Wednesday morning.

Going inside, shoppers are once again reminded to shop somewhere else as picketers hand out pamphlets encouraging customers to take their business as well.

Once inside, shoppers are greeted with uncrowded aisles and no lines at the registers, at least at the two King Soopers locations visited Wednesday around 11:30 a.m.

April Marquez, a King Soopers employee striking, said some customers walking into the stores were unaware a strike was going on until they were informed by employees at the entrance.

"We've had like five or six customers take us up on it. They say we didn't know what was going on. So now we understand, we support you. We will shop elsewhere until you guys are ready to get back into your store," said Marquez.

"I live in poverty because I can't afford rent, my phone, my food," said Geno Ulibarri, one of the striking members. "Two and a half years almost, and I make $12.32 an hour. And I'm in the snow, the rain, the wind, the hail, the sun — from arctic air to 110 degrees. I'm out here five hours a day pushing them buggies."

Jami Blair, who makes $18 an hour working in the meat department, said it took almost 12 years to reach that wage.

"And it's going to take me another two years to get to $19 an hour because I only get 30 cents a year," Blair said.

Tami Ouellette, a bakery manager, said she was unsure what might be hiding in a potential contract.

"I think they're being generous with a bonus and hourly pay. But I think that's the carrot hiding what's lost in the rest of the contract, where we're not really going to make that much when we're paying more for health care," she said.

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Inside King Soopers at 2750 S. Colorado Blvd. Wednesday morning.

The virtually empty stores seen Wednesday could be due in part to shoppers seen the day before stocking up on items before the strike. Many shoppers expressed support for striking workers.

“These people are so wonderful and so kind in every department, and they're our friends. They're our neighbors. And so, again, we plan to stick it out and support them,” said King Soopers shopper Carmel Mansour.

While it's too early to know the full impact, King Soopers said in a statement that they are committed to staying open and “delivering on their commitment to provide fresh food and other essentials to the communities they serve.”

UFCW Local 7 and King Soopers failed to come to an agreement amid contract negotiations and union members walked off the job Wednesday morning. More than 70 stores across the Denver, Boulder, Broomfield, and Parker areas could be impacted.

The union is demanding higher wages and bonuses, among other stipulations. The company is offering to increase starting pay to $16 an hour and increase bonuses, among other proposals.