WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 29, 2022) – Local United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Unions – representing 100,000 Kroger and Albertsons workers in twelve states and the District of Columbia – came together today in Washington, D.C. to demand regulators halt the proposed merger between the country’s two largest grocery chains. The workers detailed the devastating impacts that will befall workers, suppliers such as farmers and ranchers, and consumers if the merger is approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“We continue to oppose this proposed merger because of the negative impact it will have on our union members at both Kroger and Safeway, as well as the communities we serve,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400, which represents 21,000 Kroger and Safeway (Albertsons) workers in the Mid-Atlantic region. “We are grateful to Senators Klobuchar and Lee for convening today’s hearing scrutinizing this merger, but we were disappointed by the testimony provided by these employers. Our concerns were not addressed in any meaningful way and we will continue to commit every resource to protecting our members and customers from the damaging impact this merger would inevitably cause.”
Frontline essential workers spoke out before a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, where senators scrutinized Kroger and Albertsons CEOs about the merger.
Local UFCW grocery members shared the following:
“In a few months, Haggen shut down. Thousands of my coworkers and I lost our jobs. I had to juggle two jobs: cleaning houses and waitressing to be able to pay my bills and feed my family,” said Lugretzia Berg, a UFCW 770 member and a Vons (Albertsons) Front End Supervisor from Camarillo, California whose store closed as part of the 2014 Albertsons-Vons merger. “We were all put on a waiting list to get our jobs back at Vons. We had to reapply for a new position. My coworkers were unemployed for a year or more and some never got their jobs back. Others came back at a lower wage rate and have never been able to recover the standard of living they had before that merger. We don’t want to go through the same devastating experience again.”
“I’m scared of what this merger will mean for me as a worker, and what happens to my job when hundreds and hundreds of local grocery stores are closed,” said Andres Becerril, a Front End Supervisor at King Soopers (Kroger) for 12 years and member of UFCW Local 7. “But this is not just about me. The merger would create a ripple effect for potentially tens of thousands of grocery employees and their families: lost wages, lost benefits like hard earned pension plans, lost healthcare coverage, and higher grocery prices. Our local suppliers, farmers and ranchers, who create jobs in Colorado and Wyoming, will also be hurt as this new mega company will control shelf prices with no competition. we call on the FTC to hear our concerns and stop the merger.”
“This merger is based on pure greed;I want the executives and Wall Street bankers who cooked it up to know how devastating it will be for both workers and customers,” said Judy Wood, a cake decorator at Albertsons for 34 years and a member of UFCW Local 324. “The stores are going to raise prices without consequence because they won’t face competition. Kroger will close down stores that are too close to one another, putting customers out of options and workers out of jobs. It’s estimated over 5700 workers could lose their jobs just in Southern California. So we need to do everything we can to fight this merger.”
“Over the last three years, we have lived through the COVID experience and me and co-workers have served our community and served our employers and provided essential services in a time of crisis. We have all helped make our stores run,” said Naomi Oligario, a Front end Checker at Safeway (Albertsons) for 37 years and a member of UFCW Local 3000. “We are all concerned with this proposed merger and the $4 Billion giveaway to rich shareholders instead of investing in us – the workers who helped make the profits. We need safer stores, our customers need lower prices, we need more competition – not less.”
“These private equity guys are not from the grocery industry. They have never worked in one of our stores. They do not know or care about our business – all they care about is making money for themselves,” said Jane St. Louis, a Front End Associate at Safeway (Albertsons) and a member of UFCW 400. “And now, they are trying to give themselves a $4 billion payday before this merger is even reviewed by the FTC. What does my future hold working for a company without any money? How will Safeway keep its promise to fund our pension? You can see why workers like me are worried.”
From the first day the merger was announced, UFCW Local 5, UFCW Local 7, UFCW Local 324, UFCW Local 367, UFCW Local 400, UFCW Local 770, UFCW Local 1442, UFCW Local 3000 and Teamsters 38 have been taking action to intervene and stop this devastating deal.
Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing is the latest in a series of ongoing efforts to scrutinize the proposed Kroger/Albertsons merger, along with an alarming, up to $4 billion “special dividend” announced by Albertsons in connection with the merger agreement. In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging the agency to intervene, more than two dozen antitrust experts and local unions representing Albertsons’ workers decried the payout as “nothing less than an out-and-out looting of the company” and a brazen attempt to destabilize the company ahead of regulatory review of the merger.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to stop the payout and a temporary restraining order was granted through December 9th until the matter can get a full hearing on antitrust grounds.
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United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 is led by President Mark Federici and represents 35,000 members working in the grocery, retail, health care, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. www.ufcw400.org