Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council applauded the California State Assembly for passing AB 647 (Holden), the Protect Grocery Workers Job Act. AB 647 will protect grocery and pharmacy workers’ jobs by strengthening our existing Statewide Grocery Worker Retention Law and requiring recall and rehiring rights in the case of mergers or acquisitions in the grocery industry. Strengthening recall and rehiring rights 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.
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.
“Most people don’t think twice about if the food they buy from the grocery store is safe or not. They rely on the expertise and procedures grocery workers have to sell us fresh food that won’t make us sick,” said Todd Walters, president, UFCW Local 135. “In the case of mergers in the grocery industry, we need to ensure important safety knowledge and health standards stays in our communities’ stores to keep people safe. We know the expertise and commitment of UFCW’s union workers provides clear benefits and that AB 647’s retention and rehiring policies will keep knowledgeable grocery workers retained in our communities’ grocery stores. AB 647 is a key priority bill for UFCW members this year and we’re thankful the Assembly agreed. We urge the Senate to also support this essential legislation to protect working families.”
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 alone. It’s clear that a merger between these two companies will 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.
- 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 one-week severance pay for every year of service. Without severance pay protections, the loss of this many jobs in one region will have ripple effects through the local economy and further burden an already tattered social safety net.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2023
Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]