COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A meeting between Kroger and the union bargaining committee representing its central and southeastern Ohio employees is slated for Tuesday following two weeks of public back-and-forth and threats of a labor strike that could still come. 

Kroger consistently characterized the most recent contract offer rejected by workers two Fridays ago as its “last, best and final offer” — but then said last Wednesday it would return to the negotiating table. Fifty-five percent of voting union workers turned down that third tentative contract agreement with the grocery chain and more than 80% authorized the union to call a strike on Sept. 16. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1059 has not called one yet, however, asking Kroger to instead come back and bargain

Workers voted down two previous versions of the proposal in late July and late August, according to emails sent to UFCW Local 1059 members obtained by NBC4. In the third version, proposed wage increases include three raises for workers — of $0.65, $0.50, and $0.65 — each year and for a total of $1.80 through 2024, according to a Kroger press release.

“As Central Ohio’s grocer, Kroger aims to balance significant wage increases for associates with keeping food affordable for customers,” said Amy McCormick, corporate affairs manager for the Columbus division, in an email Wednesday. 

Both the company and the union have said previously they were making preparations in case the union calls a strike — including if tomorrow’s session goes sour. Tuesday’s bargaining is the only one Kroger and the union announced last week. 

In Denver in early 2022, it took a 10-day strike for a Kroger-owned chain of stores and the local UFCW to come to an agreement. According to WCMH sister station KDVR, union workers at King Soopers and City Markets in the Denver area ultimately ratified a contract that contained what the local UFCW called “the most significant wage increase ever secured by a UFCW local for grocery workers.”

That strike affected 78 stores and more than 8,000 workers, according to KDVR.

UFCW Local President Randy Quickel has said 82 stores and around 12,500 workers fall within Local 1059’s jurisdiction of the Columbus division — which includes stores throughout central and southeast Ohio.