DENVER — King Soopers received a temporary restraining order Tuesday against the labor union that represents its striking employees, saying that picketers were harassing customers and preventing them from entering stores and parking lots.
Meanwhile, a King Soopers spokesperson said Wednesday that the company's team negotiated through the night as it worked to reach an agreement on a new contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7.
A judge granted part of the order requested by the company Tuesday.
The request asked, among other things, that striking employees not impede or harass King Soopers customers or workers and that picketers not be allowed to congregate outside stores in groups larger than five. The judge granted groups of up to 10 people to gather.
The order that was granted prohibits the following activities:
- Impeding the entrance or exit of any customer, employee, vendor, or vehicle
- Picketing in groups larger than 10 people "in front of, on, or near King Soopers' facilities"
- Interfering with, threatening or shouting at any person within 20 feet of that person
- Physically obstructing anyone who has a lawful right to enter King Soopers’ facilities
- Following anyone who is leaving King Soopers' facilities off the premises
The temporary restraining order applies until Jan. 28 at 9 a.m., when a hearing will be held.
Employees represented by UFCW Local 7 started striking Wednesday outside King Soopers stores in the Denver, Broomfield, Parker and Boulder areas, a day after rejecting the company's "last, best" offer for a new contract.
In the paperwork, King Soopers lists what it says were multiple instances of union members blocking people from entering stores and parking lots and intimidating or harassing people. The paperwork also lists incidents of violence being threatened against the picketers.
The UFCW Local 7 rejected what it said were "unfounded allegations" in the filing.
King Soopers said it supports its employees' right to picket and also people's right to cross the picket line.
"Unfortunately, at several locations picketers are engaging in unlawful activity including threatening, blocking and intimidating both associates and customers who have chosen to cross the picket line," the company's statement says. "Additionally, there have been instances where picketers are blocking trucks from delivering to our stores. These activities are not peaceful and frankly are unsafe."
Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7, said in a statement that the union "strongly disagrees with the unfounded allegations."
"There are over 8,000 workers, as well as members of the public on our picket lines, and we continue to call on everyone involved not to allow these baseless allegations and bullying tactics to distract us from what is important," Cordova said.
In a phone interview Tuesday night, Cordova said the allegations were never mentioned throughout several negotiation meetings with King Soopers the past week.
"I was surprised by that," she said. "We haven't had any real incidents on the picket line where we've had complaints or things like that. It's mostly been about [King Soopers] management harassing our members. That’s what we've seen. I was pretty taken aback by it."
Cordova said the union plans to appeal the restraining order.
"There are laws in place, both state and federal – the Colorado Labor Peace Act, the National Labor Relations Act – those are statutes that govern how and under what conditions folks can strike, the union activity, as well as the collective bargaining agreement the union has with King Soopers," 9NEWS legal expert Whitney Traylor said.
Already one week into the strike, Traylor suspects the grocery company wanted the court to act quickly.
"The wheels of justice move slowly," he said. "If you're in court it may take you months or years to get your matter heard. In this case, a temporary restraining order, someone uses that when they need to get into court right away."
Negotiations between King Soopers and the union went through the night, said King Soopers spokesperson Jessica Trowbridge on Wednesday morning.
"We remain committed to bargaining in good faith and working towards an agreement that increases our associates wages," she said.
Days earlier, the union said there has been "little to no progress" in contract negotiations, while King Soopers said it was disappointed "the process is moving slowly but pleased that progress is being made."
The negotiations are closed to the media.
Among the incidents described in the company's court filing:
- "1355 Krameria, Denver. On January 12, 2022, at 7:00 am and 2:00 pm, approximately 5 picketers were actively blocking the street entrances and prohibiting vehicles from entering the parking lot. The picketers directed vehicle traffic to the Safeway grocery store across the street."
- "8673 South Quebec, Highlands Ranch. Beginning January 12, 2022, and each day since, picketers have told customers not to go into the store, the food is rotten and spoiled. The food is not spoiled."
- "1725 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater. On January 15, 16 and 17, 2022, picketers used cowbells and air horns and played loud music fairly consistently throughout the day. On January 16, the store received at least three calls from neighbors complaining about the noise."
- "8031 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada. On January 14, 2022, a picketer reported in a Facebook post that a couple of picketers had been shot with a BB gun."
- "4850 East 62nd Avenue, Commerce City. On January 12, 2022, shortly after 5:00 pm, a picketer commandeered a King Soopers motorized handicap accessibility scooter and used it to patrol the store’s entrance while screaming at shoppers."
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