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DENVER -- Colorado -- King Soopers and City Market workers voted on Friday by about a 90 percent margin to ask federal mediator Scott Beckenbaugh to draft a settlement proposal that could break the six-month-old negotiation deadlock between employees and Kroger, which owns both banners. Albertsons and Safeway have also been involved in contract negotiations with unionized grocery workers in Colorado.
The mail-in vote came in from all over the state. Ballots were counted in Denver on Friday morning. "This is good for Colorado grocery store workers because it gets us back to the bargaining table and will give us a proposal to vote on," said United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Dave Minshall.
According to Minshall, Kroger workers will meet for a strategy session in Denver on Jan. 18. Workers have asked Kroger corporate negotiators to meet with them Monday, Feb. 7 to work out ground rules for future bargaining. Health care benefits and wages remain sticking points in the labor dispute.
Over 17,000 employees work at Colorado King Soopers, City Market, Safeway, and Albertsons stores. The workers are represented by UFCW Local 7 of Wheat Ridge, Colo.
In other labor news, the UFCW Bay Area Coalition has given a deadline of Wednesday, Jan. 24 to Safeway, Albertsons, and Ralphs to make "significant movement at the bargaining table or face the possibility of a labor dispute." The announcement came after a heated week of bargaining between both sides. "Unless significant progress has been made toward a tentative contract agreement by Jan. 24, the 30,000 Bay Area grocery workers will launch a major escalation of their pressure tactics against the employers," said UFCW spokesman Ron Lind in a statement.
The contract between the unions and the grocers expired Saturday, Jan.14. As negotiations approach the Jan. 24 deadline, union representatives have said that their members will escalate actions at stores, expanding their campaign to target Albertson's stores as well as Safeway locations.