CA Senate Helps Protect Grocery and Pharmacy Workers from Mergers
Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council applauded the California State Senate for passing AB 647 (Holden), the Protect Grocery Workers Job Act. AB 647 will protect grocery and pharmacy workers’ jobs by strengthening California’s existing Statewide Grocery Worker Retention Law. This will ensure that skilled and trained workers can continue to provide our communities with access to safe food and lessen the economic impact to our social safety net.
“California’s Grocery Worker Retention Law has been underenforced since it was signed into law,” said John Frahm, acting president, UFCW Local 5. “AB 647 expands the protections the law provides to warehouse workers and ensures that communities won’t lose good jobs if a merger occurs. UFCW members are proud the California Senate stood with us today and urge the Governor to do the same when it crosses his desk.”
In October 2022, it was announced that Kroger and Albertsons would pursue a $24.6 billion mega-merger, joining together two of the largest grocery chains in the United States. Nationally, these two grocery chains employ over 700,000 workers and operate over 50 manufacturing facilities and 5,000 retail stores. California has more of these two grocery chains than any other state in the country, with Kroger operating approximately 233 stores under the Ralphs, Food 4 Less and Foods Co banners and Albertsons operating approximately 579 grocery stores under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions banners.
In Los Angeles and Orange Counties alone, 115 of 159 Albertsons stores are within two miles of a Kroger store and are potential targets of closures by the Federal Trade Commission. This could result in an estimated 5,750 jobs being lost in the Los Angeles region. A merger between these two companies could result in large-scale layoffs for workers, grocery stores closing down, particularly in food deserts and rural areas, increasing food costs, and a reduction in a variety of products, including seasonal, organic, and climate-friendly plant-based foods for consumers.
AB 647 (Holden) is part of UFCW’s legislative package to mitigate the effects of mergers and acquisitions on the retail and grocery industries. The other two bills in the package are:
- AB 853 (Maienschein), Californians’ Right to Know on Essential Goods and Services. California residents and workers must have the right to know about proposed mergers in the Grocery and Drug-Retail industries that affect the supply and affordability of food and medicine and the supply of experienced grocery retail workers with knowledge of food safety and licensed pharmacy staff entrusted with supplying safe and accurate medications and clinical services to ailing Californians. AB 853 will require grocery or drug-retail companies to notify the California Attorney General 180 days in advance of finalizing a proposed merger or acquisition and submit an impact analysis report on the impact of the merger or acquisition on communities, such as food deserts, food prices, and access to food, and workers, such as supply of experienced grocery workers, unemployment, wages and benefits and more. AB 853 moved to Governor Newsom’s desk September 6, 2023.
- SB 725 (Smallwood-Cuevas), Grocery Worker Safety Net, which requires a grocery establishment who conducts layoffs as a result of a merger or acquisition to provide workers with a one-week displaced grocery worker allowance for every year of service. SB 725 also moved to Governor Newsom’s desk on September 14, 2023.
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The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council is the regional coordinating body of 11 UFCW local unions representing over 200,000 workers in California, Arizona and Nevada. The Council is a part of the 1.3 million-member strong UFCW International Union. UFCW members are standing together to improve the lives of workers, families, and communities.