HomeCommunity NewsGrocery Store Workers Protest Merger

Grocery Store Workers Protest Merger

Burbank shoppers saw the latest in the fracas between Kroger and Albertsons Companies’ grocery store employees and consumer groups as Burbank grocery workers rallied outside of Ralphs Thursday in protest of Kroger’s yet-unresolved acquisition of Albertsons.

Warning that a merger of the grocery giants could devastate Burbank families, protesters — who were joined by local elected officials and union officials — hoped to educate shoppers and encourage them to contact the Federal Trade Commission to oppose the merger.

Since Kroger and Albertsons announced their proposed $24.6 billion megamerger in October 2022, many have raised alarms about potential negative impacts of the merger on workers, shoppers and food suppliers such as farmers and ranchers.

While representatives from the major grocery companies say they won’t close stores or lay off employees once the merger goes through, many aren’t convinced.

“If the $24.6 billion megamerger is approved, it will drive out competition, close neighborhood grocery stores, raise food prices for already struggling consumers, increase food deserts in our state and put an estimated 5,750 workers out of jobs alone in Southern California,” said Brenda Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local Chapter 770, in a statement to the Leader.

The sentiment is echoed by the American Antitrust Institute, which wrote a letter to the FTC asking the regulator to challenge the merger on the grounds that it is illegal. The letter posited that the merger would lessen competition and tighten the supermarket oligopoly, which would incentivize illegal collusion.

The result: “Consumers could face higher food prices, less choice … and independent [grocers] that already struggle with higher input prices could be further disadvantaged,” according to the AAI who added that layoffs and store closures could also be on the horizon.

But Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen assured that would not be the case.

“Kroger will not close any stores, distribution centers or manufacturing facilities, or lay off any frontline associates as a result of the merger. No excuses, no exceptions,” the retailer said in a press statement.

In a video statement on the Kroger-Albertsons website, McMullen said that the company plans to increase wages for workers while lowering prices, though it is unclear if all layoffs are off the table.

“The combination of Kroger and Albertsons Companies brings together two purpose-driven organizations to deliver superior value to customers, associates, communities and shareholders,” added McMullen.

To add to Kroger’s list of woes impending on the merger, a group of 26 customers of Albertsons and/or Kroger have filed suit to block the merger, making similar claims to those written in the AAI letter.

Meanwhile, in Burbank, workers gathered outside of the Victory Boulevard Ralphs Thursday to “protect [their] communities from the disastrous effects of the proposed megamerger,” according to Rodriguez.

“Over 650 stores across the country are expected to be divested to meet the Federal Trade Commission’s requirements for the merger, and many of those stores will be in Southern California,” Rodriguez said.

Kroger and Albertsons have assured stakeholders that stores will not be closed.

In Southern California, popular grocery chains like Ralphs and Food 4 Less are owned by Kroger, while Albertsons owns Vons and Pavilions.

“The proposed merger of Kroger and Albertsons is another example of the ever-increasing concentration of control over food by fewer and fewer corporations,” said Vice Mayor Nick Schultz.

“We should strive for a secure food system with more access and choice for consumers. We deserve a good system that provides key community labor standards, increased access to adequate and healthy food and safe and accesible stores. I am concerned that this merger will not serve our essential needs and may be counterproductive to these goals,” Schultz added.

The protests in Burbank were part of a “week of action” where grocery workers from UFCW local unions — representing more than 100,000 Kroger and Albertsons employees in 11 states and the District of Columbia — held actions in front of grocery stores to connect with customers about the impacts of the proposed mega-merger and to urge them to contact the FTC to “Stop the Merger.”

The proposed merger is awaiting a decision from the Federal Trade Commission.

First published in the July 1 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]