Local 5 Joins Multi-Union Effort to Tell Congress That Kroger, Albertsons Merger is Bad for Workers and Consumers
Local 5 joined with members and representatives from UFCW Locals 7, 324, 770, 400 and 3000 in Washington D.C. in November to voice their opposition to the proposed Kroger and Albertson’s merger and to attend a congressional hearing on its potential impacts on workers and consumers. The six locals represent more than 100,000 Kroger and Albertsons workers.
Kroger announced plans in October to acquire Albertsons in a deal valued at nearly $25 billion. West Coast and other UFCW Locals have spoken out against the merger since the announcement and were instrumental in pursuing legal action to put the brakes on a planned $4 billion special dividend for Albertsons shareholders, most of which would go to Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity group that owns a 28.4% stake in the company.
At a press conference prior to the Senate hearing, workers detailed their previous experience with industry consolidation, including the Safeway-Albertsons merger, and the potential of devastating job loss due to likely store closures resulting from anti-trust concerns.
Local 324 member Judy Wood, a 34-year Albertsons employee, said workers were told by management that “there was nothing to worry about” when Albertsons and Safeway merged, but many ended up losing their jobs when another grocery chain acquired dozens of locations that were spun off by the newly merged company, and then filed for bankruptcy.
Strategic Programs Director Jim Araby led the Local 5 delegation to the Capital and called on the Federal Trade Commission to kill the proposed deal.
“If the merger is allowed to move forward the only winners will be private equity millionaires and other wealthy shareholders. Displaced union workers lose as their stores close, and consumers lose when less competition results in higher prices,” said Araby.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee led the hearing and along with Senator Bernie Sanders, challenged company executives on their actions, emphasizing that the proposed merger comes at a time when rising grocery prices are creating financial hardship for many American families. Sanders made his opposition clear and pledged to stand with UFCW members as they fight to save good union grocery jobs.
Prior to the Senate hearing, four U.S. House members, including David Cicilline, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, called on the Federal Trade Commission to “closely evaluate” the competitive impact of the proposed transaction.
“This acquisition threatens to create competition-stifling concentration in markets across the country, hurting consumers, workers, and small businesses. Kroger’s proposed acquisition of Albertsons presents several anticompetitive concerns,” the lawmakers said in their November 21 letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.
“For consumers, the consolidated grocery chain could offer fewer product choices and higher costs for essential goods. For workers, the acquisition could impair bargaining power for fair wages and safe working conditions in local communities. For small and medium-sized grocers, this acquisition could diminish their already strained resources and drive-up supply costs.”
Kroger and Albertsons expect the transaction to close in early 2024 pending regulatory approval although many industry experts believe that the process could take up to two years.
UFCW Locals are planning additional strategies around the pending deal and Local 5 will keep members informed and when necessary, involved in the fight, according to Araby.
“Local 5 and our growing coalition of unions and consumer groups that oppose the merger will continue to make the case that, in the corporate world, bigger is usually not better for American families.”
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