UFCW Members Win Fight Against Kroger-Albertsons Merger!

Today the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit to reject the proposed megamerger between Kroger and Albertsons. This decision comes after UFCW 324 members and members across California and the nation fought relentlessly for 16 months to ensure the FTC and all other stakeholders knew just how bad it would have been for workers and their communities. 

UFCW 324 and other UFCW local unions in California and nationwide have loudly and soundly opposed the proposed mega-merger of Kroger and Albertsons since day one because the megamerger would have resulted in lost jobs, closed stores, food deserts, and higher prices with reduced food choices – all of this would have been destructive for workers, consumers, and entire communities. Importantly, the FTC decision recognizes the threat that the merger would have caused goes beyond consumers and calls out that it would also have damaged essential grocery store workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions.

The FTC deliberations over the past 16 months, and the evidence that was gathered directed their well-founded decision. This is a step in the right direction for building a better food system in this country. Now we need to do all we can to help defend this decision and to turn the discussion towards building a better system that is more accountable to workers, shoppers, and the community.

Also this morning, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a bipartisan coalition of states, announced the filing of a lawsuit that challenges the proposed merger of Kroger and Albertsons.

In a statement, Attorney General Bonta said, “This merger will leave Californians with limited choices over where to shop – and for workers in this industry, where to work. As many families continue to feel the burden of inflation, fighting corporate consolidation that threatens to increase prices and reduce service is more important than ever.”

UFCW 324 applauds Attorney General Bonta for standing up for the working people and communities of California in suing to block this merger.

This legal action marks a significant milestone for California’s grocery workers, who, in coalition with several UFCW locals across the country, have worked tirelessly over the past sixteen months, making sure their voices are heard loud and clear through the media and with customers by initiating store actions, meeting with federal and state regulators, attending listening sessions with Attorneys General, going toe-to-toe with representatives from Kroger/Albertsons and C&S Wholesale (the company they proposed to divest stores to), and attending webinars and press conferences.

All our work has kept the voice of grocery store workers front and center in this story, while exposing the potentially harmful effects of this proposed merger to our communities, our stores, and our jobs. Through this powerful show of collective strength, the FTC and California Attorney General clearly heard our message.

As the percentage of our income spent on food soars to a 30-year high, Attorney General Bonta’s lawsuit recognizes that ‘businesses facing less competition have the ability to charge higher prices without providing improvements to the quality of goods.’ Additionally, ‘anticompetitive supermarket mergers can impose other harms, including a reduction in labor market competition which may lower wages or slow wage growth, worsen benefits or working conditions, or result in other degradations of workplace quality.’

We commend Attorney General Bonta for his actions today, and his continued support for the working families of California. 

The coalition of UFCW locals 5, 7, 324, 400, 770, 1564 and 3000 have been instrumental in the opposition to the proposed merger from the very beginning. Hundreds of actions, news stories, meetings with grocery store members, community, regulators and others and additional events have been part of that effort. Below is a varied sampling of some highlighted examples of this work. Linked here are a more full list of media coverage, and a long list of opposition coalition members.

October 2022

10/13 – Kroger and Albertsons, without any warning, make announcement of proposed merger.

10/13 – Group of local UFCW unions, taking advantage of close relationships forged through supportive and collaborative efforts with each other’s collective bargaining with national grocers, quickly convene and issue joint statement immediately raising concerns about the proposal. Within hours the initial news coverage that had simply contained Kroger’s statement becomes a broader story including very strong opposition and concerns.

10/22  – Joint press release by local UFCWs flags the proposed massive payout of $4 Billion by Albertsons to wealthy shareholders as part of the proposed merger. News coverage includes KIRO 7 TV story.

10/26 –  Joint press release applauding lawsuits filed by Attorneys General in multiple jurisdictions to halt Albertsons special $4 billion payout to wealthy shareholders as part of the proposed merger which Albertsons initially announced would take place in early November.  The Washington State AG case succeeds in halting this rushed payment. While it ends up being allowed to proceed, it is not until early 2023 and only after under-oath testimony from company executives disclosing critical inside information that had been unknown to the public and exposed some of the key motivations behind the proposed merger.

November 2022

11/29 Held in-person Press Conference in Washington DC with Presidents and members from the six local UFCWs of the newly formed coalition from across 12 states and the District of Columbia  (Southern CA – UFCW 324 and 770, Northern CA – UFCW 5; Washington – UFCW 3000; CO & Wyoming – UFCW 7; DC and surrounding states – UFCW 400) and Teamsters local 38 representing over 100,000 Kroger and Albertsons. The press conference was held immediately prior to a planned US Senate Subcommittee hearing on the proposed merger and helped tell the story of the negative impacts of such a merger in local and national TV, print, and radio coverage.

December 2022

12/3 – Article goes into details about concerns. “EVERYONE SHOULD BE VERY SKEPTICAL OF THE SUPPOSED BENEFITS OF THE KROGER-ALBERTSONS MERGER – Kroger can’t help but promote its own interests over customers.”

January 2023

1/23 – Ongoing opposition by states and UFCW locals discussed in Supermarket News article.. 

February 2023

2/1 – More Perfect Union posts video discussing harms and concerns of proposed merger.

2/15 – Colorado Attorney General begins series of statewide listening sessions to hear from workers, community and others about their reactions to the proposed merger. UFCW Local 7 members attend these meetings and provide critical concerns about the proposal.

March 2023

3/24 – Launch of national coalition “NoGroceryMerger.com” and website as a one-stop for the anti-merger efforts with over 100 organizations. This also becomes a place to chronicle much of the media coverage around the country about the opposition and provides a degree of a check and balance to the Kroger and Albertson’s PR machinery. https://www.nogrocerymerger.com/news

April 2023

4/4-4/13 – Grocery store workers take actions in front of stores across the nation to connect with customers and share concerns about the proposed merger and how it would harm workers and customers with closed stores, lay-offs, higher prices, and in some locations food deserts.

May 2023

After months of deliberation and ultimately a unanimous vote at the UFCW International Convention opposing the merger, UFCW International Union announces opposition to the proposed Kroger Albertsons merger. National press coverage is widespread including a Wall Street Journal headline: “Biggest Grocery Union Opposes $20 Billion Kroger-Albertsons Deal – UFCW International is concerned about potential divestitures and stores’ future viability.”

June 2023

6/29 – A week of actions held by UFCW grocery store workers across the nation include many in California that generated local press coverage like KTLA 5 TV story: Southern California grocery workers rally against Albertsons-Kroger merger (youtube.com)

July 2023

7/26 – Coalition of UFCW locals issue statement condemning announced pay-outs of over $146 million to top executives if merger were approved.  Coverage includes Cincinnati Enquirer article.

August 2023

8/23 – State Treasurers raise concerns about proposed merger. News stories include Bloomberg Law article: “Kroger Grocery Deal Will Harm Workers State Treasurers Tell FTC

September 2023

9/20 – National press conference held by coalition of local UFCWs to expose concerns about the recently announced divestiture to C&S Wholesale. Generates significant local and national press coverage and begins the public discussion of major concerns about C&S as an inadequate proposed remedy to the proposed mergers anti-trust challenges. Results in many stories includingSupermarket News story titled “UFCW cites ‘echoes of Haggen’ in proposed C&S deal”

9/27 – UFCW local 7 holds a Town Hall with members to update on opposition to proposed merger and take questions. Thousands attend.

October 2023

10/30 – Progressive Grocer published op-ed titled: Opinion: Kroger-Albertsons Proposed Mega-Merger Is a Threat to Workers and Shoppers Alike

November 2023

11/1 – FTC Chair Khan hold listening session in Denver and hears widespread concerns from workers, consumers, suppliers and others. Significant press coverage of event includes stories like the Colorado Public Radio story: “Grocery workers ask FTC chair to stop Kroger Albertsons merger during Denver visit” UFCW members from California, Washington and Colorado attend this important event to share their stories.

11/11 – Marshall Steinbaum, an economic from University of Utah, issues report that was supported by coalition of local UFCWs 5, 7, 324, 400, 770 and 3000, titled: Evaluating the Competitive Effect of the Proposed Kroger-Albertsons Merger in Labor Markets

11/14 – American Economic Liberties Project, hold national briefing and press event with UFCW grocery store members and representatives from five additional organizations including: Ranch Foods, Independent Grocers Association, Open Markets Institute, Farm Action and Alaska Public Interest Research Group

December 2023

12/11 – Teamsters International issues strong statement in opposition to merger divestiture proposal: TEAMSTERS CALL ON FTC TO REJECT KROGER-ALBERTSONS PROPOSED ASSET SALES TO C&S

January 2024

1/15 – UFCW local coalition Issues statement applauding Washington State Attorney General Lawsuit – with our quote in local and national press coverage of the lawsuit. Coverage includes a national AP story: “Washington State Sues to Block Proposed Merger of Kroger and Albertsons Grocery Chains

1/23 – Held two webinars (1/23 AM and PM) to update members on details of the proposed merger and collective efforts to fight the proposal with over 500 members in attendance.

1/25 – Held multiple meetings with Kroger as well as C&S Wholesale. We found out no new information in the meetings that dissuaded us from our position of opposition, in fact we found out additional concerning information as well continued to ask for information that was still not provided.

1/26 – Held national online press conference (1/26) to continue to clarify our position of opposition so media and members of the public understood our reasons and the various threats to workers, consumers and communities by both the proposed merger and the proposed divestiture plan – with over 50 reporters in attendance. Generated local and national press coverage educating the public, workers and others. Example: https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/grocery-worker-union-gives-update-proposed-kroger-albertsons-merger-timeline/

February 2024

2/1 – UFCW 3000 and Teamsters 38 hold live Telephone Town Hall to update and educate members, and answer questions of members with thousands of members in attendance.

2/14 – Colorado Attorney General files lawsuits against the merger. Local and national coverage. One example: CBS News Colorado: https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/colorado-attorney-general-files-lawsuit-block-merger-between-kroger-albertsons/