Topics: News, Press

Governor Newsom Sides With Grocery Employers Over Essential Workers

Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council released the following statement after Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 725 (Smallwood-Cuevas), the Grocery Worker Safety Net, and SB 777 (Allen). 

SB 725 would have required 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. 

“Governor Newsom hailed California’s grocery workers as heroes and essential during the pandemic, with our state relying on them to keep everyone fed and the supply chain working.  UFCW leadership and our members were proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Newsom during those difficult times, in order to provide food for all Californians,” said Amber Baur, executive director, UFCW Western States Council. 

“The veto of SB 725, unfortunately, denies these very workers the safety net they need and deserve if they lose their jobs to greedy corporate grocery chains. Unemployment insurance does not provide an adequate wage replacement for grocery workers already living paycheck to paycheck. SB 725 would have ensured they knew how they were going to pay their rent or put food on the table if they lost their job.

“The grocery industry has been ravaged by mergers and acquisitions for decades now, and the trend will only continue. Corporations put profits over people. SB 725 was a potential check on this rampant corporate power.  Our hope and expectation is that Governor Newsom will work with UFCW and its leadership when the inevitable and foreseeable store closures and mass layoffs occur if and when the merger between Kroger and Albertsons is approved.”

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. 

A merger between these two companies could result in large scale layoffs for workers and without 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. In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, 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. 

SB 725 (Smallwood-Cuevas), was 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 that the Governor signed are: 

  • AB 647 (Holden), Protect Grocery Workers Job Act. This bill 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. 
  • 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 777 would have required retail establishments that sell plastic bags to submit annual aggregated reporting to CalRecycle specifying the actual costs for implementing the provisions of SB 270, actual costs for providing the reusable bags, costs associated with a store’s educational materials or educational campaigns encouraging the use of reusable grocery bags, and costs associated with recycling. 

“SB 777 was a simple bill that would have informed California how customer’s dollars are being spent when they purchase plastic bags at the grocery store and if those fees are being used for what they were designed for in 2014,” continued Baur. “This veto was a clear giveaway to the grocery industry to allow them to keep pocketing the money from the sale of plastic bags and not invest in the requirements of SB 270.” 

# # #


October 10, 2023

Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]