Sacramento, CA – More than fifty grocery store workers from across California traveled to Sacramento today and joined with legislators at the Capitol in calling for a suite of bills that would address the harmful effects of grocery-store mergers. This comes on the heels of a proposed deal between Albertsons and Kroger – the two largest grocery chains in the nation with an outsized presence in California – to ink a $24.6 billion merger.
Like many harmful merger deals before it, this mega-merger will rob workers of hundreds of millions in annual earnings to enrich corporate executives. In California alone, the Kroger-Albertsons merger is expected to create a $102,616,000 loss in annual earnings for some 210,947 workers. That’s a loss of nearly $500 per year at a time when the vast majority of grocery workers are struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent amid inflated costs and low emergency savings.
“In my 30 plus years in the grocery industry, I have seen first hand how mergers can hurt workers, their families, and local communities,” said Mark Ramos, President, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council and UFCW Local 1428. “Some lose their jobs, and those lucky enough to still have a job are often forced to travel long distances to work at a new store. Communities lose a reliable source of fresh food. California lawmakers must take action to protect grocery workers, pharmacy workers and the communities they serve by passing this important legislative package.”
“The astronomical cost to grocery workers of the proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger is a reminder that we have a responsibility to protect the communities we represent through public policy,” said Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas. “That is why I am proud to author SB 725, which institutes a mandatory severance pay for workers who are laid off due to a grocery merger or acquisition. It sends a clear message that we will not allow grocery companies to enrich themselves on the backs of their employees.”
“Powerful grocery companies shouldn’t be able to finalize harmful merger deals behind closed doors,” said Assemblymember Brian Maienschein. “AB 853 gives workers much-needed time to respond to a proposed merger or acquisition by requiring grocery companies to give six months notice, shining a light on deals that could cause harm to workers, their communities, and small businesses.”
“As a 55 year-old less than two years from retirement, a grocery chain merger could completely upend my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers,” said Robert Launius, a meat cutter at Gelson’s. “When chains merge, stores close. Workers get laid off. We shouldn’t have to live in fear of losing our jobs. California must pass these bills to make sure workers like me aren’t caught in the crossfire of the next major grocery merger.”
“In the wake of a merger, corporate profits soar while workers suffer pay cuts and job loss – leaving workers struggling to pay for basic necessities like food and rent,” said Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Workers, who are the backbone of California’s economy, deserve a safety net to protect them from harmful mergers. Our communities deserve better than being left to suffer the consequences of a merger that will create food insecurity for many who already struggle to access nutritious food. The legislature should waste no time in passing AB 853, AB 647, and SB 725”
The bill package contains three critical pieces of legislation:
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), Safety Net for Grocery Workers Act, 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.
AB 647 (Holden), Grocery Worker Protection Act, will protect grocery and pharmacy workers’ jobs by strengthening California’s existing Statewide Grocery Worker Retention Law and requiring recall and rehiring rights. 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.
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For Immediate Release
May 17, 2023
Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]