DENVER — For the first time since thousands of King Soopers employees went on strike Wednesday, representatives from both the grocery store and union were at the bargaining table on Friday.
Those with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 said, at the very least, employees want $18 an hour. It is the same rate as the temporary workers hired by King Soopers during the strike.
King Soopers plans to offer $16 an hour, with a $4.50 increase after the first year of employment.
MAP: These are the King Soopers stores that could be affected by the worker's strike beginning Wednesday
As of Friday afternoon, UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova called the negotiations "unproductive." Union representatives, along with King Soopers employees, said they are prepared to strike for three weeks.
“I wasn't going to buy one thing. I was just going to the pharmacy," said Joycee Kennedy, who visited the King Soopers off of Krameria Street on Friday and wanted to let picketers know she supports their efforts.
One of the thousands of people on strike is Kristal Sheppard. Sheppard started working at King Soopers when she was 16 years old, and continued for 10 years after that. She left for a while, then came back to the grocer in 2018. Sheppard said working through the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of a challenge.
“I take care of my 9-year-old son and my mom who's disabled. ... It's really hard because I work almost 50 hours a week," said Sheppard. "The company doesn't understand how it affects our family. We have lives too. We want to go home on time to take care of our families and spend time with them. But sometimes we don't get to do that a lot."
In the same parking lot as the King Soopers off of Krameria Street is Mayfair Liquors. The store has been in East Denver since 1959.
"We have been around for families that have shopped here for generations," said Matthew Amerson, the owner and general manager of Mayfair Liquors.
Since the strike started, Amerson said their sales have decreased by more than 20% when compared to the same time period last year.
“Sales are dramatically down, especially in-store traffic," Amerson told Denver7. “Normally, on a Friday like this, there would be a half-dozen customers in the store, and the parking lot would be half full, maybe more than that. And the last two days, it's been a ghost town."
Amerson said many customers felt uncomfortable pulling into the shared parking lot. He hopes during the negotiations that a fair deal can be reached.
“We sort of feel like we're stuck between giant King Soopers corporation and a fairly large union. And we're the little guy that's just, kind of, trying to make it every day," said Amerson. “It's an unfortunate situation if you work at a grocery store full-time and you can't pay your rent, and buy groceries, and make your car payment, and do all those things. And I feel for those people, and I hope they can work out an agreement that works for everybody.”
Sheppard acknowledged the strain felt by businesses near the King Soopers location on Krameria Street, and said she understands their struggles. She thanked them for their support during the strike.