Judge orders limits on picket lines as King Soopers strike enters second week

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A Colorado judge gave in to demands by King Soopers grocery stores on Monday to impose sweeping restrictions on picket lines held by members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 as the union strikes on wages and working conditions is entering its second week.

A temporary restraining order issued by Denver District Court Judge Marie A. Moses partially granted a request filed Tuesday by King Soopers attorneys, who demanded limits on picket lines outside stores in the city. company due to what they said was harassment by non-union and customer picketers. employees.

Moses’ ruling directs UFCW Local 7 members and “others acting in concert” with the union to limit picket lines to “10 or fewer pickets within the premises and perimeter of each facilities of King Soopers”. King Soopers had requested that the limit be set at five picketers.

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“Given the acts and threats of violence that have allegedly taken place, an injunction is necessary to preserve the rights of customers, employees and vendors of various King Soopers to participate in their employment and their ability to purchase basic necessities. without fear of violence. their physical safety,” Moses wrote.

The court order also prohibits picketers from ‘shouting at anyone within 20 feet of that person’ and requires UFCW Local 7 to instruct its members and representatives to refrain from such behavior. .

In a statement on Tuesday, the union accused King Soopers and its parent company, Kroger, of “bullying tactics” and reiterated its calls for the company to offer workers a fair contract. An overwhelming majority of UFCW Local 7 members at Denver-area stores voted to authorize a strike earlier this month after months of stalled negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement. The previous two-year contract between the union and King Soopers expired on January 8 and the union went on strike which began on January 12.

They want to end our freedom of speech and further restrict workers’ rights. We will not tolerate this.

– Kim Cordova, UFCW Local 7 President

“They want to end our freedom of expression and further restrict workers’ rights. We will not tolerate this,” Local 7 President Kim Cordova said in a statement. “We remain focused on our fight to give King Soopers/Kroger workers the peak contract they deserve.”

In its filing seeking a restraining order, King Soopers listed dozens of reports of “unlawful” actions by employees picketing. The reports – few of which have been publicly documented – cover a wide variety of alleged behavior, from threatening a store manager and blocking the path of delivery trucks and customers entering stores to “yelling at (a customer) with an angry face. and “playing loud music on a Bluetooth speaker”.

“To be extremely clear – we support the right of our associates to picket, we also respect the right of our associates to cross the line to picket and work and the right of our customers to cross the line to shop” , King Soopers spokeswoman Jessica Trowbridge wrote in an email Tuesday.

Seeking injunctions against picketing activity is a long-standing tactic used by employers in labor disputes and has seen a revival amid a recent wave of worker strikes across the country. Last year, an Iowa judge ordered strikers at a John Deere factory to limit picketing to four people at a time outside the factory gates, and similar rulings were recently handed down against hospital maintenance strikers in West Virginia and miners in Alabama.

The union called allegations of threatening behavior by King Soopers “baseless” and said on Tuesday it would continue the strike.

“We reiterate our call for union members to be strong and resolute on the picket lines,” Cordova said. “We will continue to fight on behalf of our members for an improved living wage, a safe place to work and shop, health benefits for workers and the withdrawal of concession proposals that undermine the dignity of workers. essential workers.”

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