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DENVER - Lawyers for the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents about 17,500 grocery workers in Colorado and Wyoming, late last week filed federal charges of discrimination, intimation, and harassment against King Soopers and the managers of the company's Colorado Springs store at Fillmore and Centennial, after courtesy clerk Yvette M. Williams was allegedly terminated when she asked for time off to vote with other union members on the pending labor contract.
Unionized grocery workers in the state are currently engaged in an increasingly contentious labor dispute with Safeway, Albertsons, and Kroger-owned King Soopers, mainly centering on wages and benefits. The vote could determine whether the employees go on strike rather than accept the grocers' latest offer, which the UFCW has called inadequate. Statewide voting on the contract ends Nov. 11.
According to Williams, who has worked at the supermarket for about a year, the store manager told her she had no right to vote on the pending contract. When she pressed the issue, she was told to turn in her name badge and clean out her locker, she said.
"Workers demand the corporations reinstate Ms. Williams," said union spokesperson Dave Minshall. "Firing a worker for trying to exercise her legal right to vote on her contract is outrageous."
According to Minshall, the UFCW is filing complaints with the National Labor Relations Board in Denver. Lawyers may also file discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he added.
King Soopers violated federal labor laws by depriving Williams of her right to vote on the contract, the union claims. "This is corporate intimidation, pure and simple," said Minshall. "King Soopers and the other food chains in Colorado are trying to scare their workers into voting for this lame contract."
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, King Soopers spokeswoman Kris Staaf said, "We don't discuss personnel issues."