Topics: News, Press

Senate Labor Committee Supports Protecting Grocery Workers’ Jobs and Communities from Mergers

Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council applauded the Senate Labor Committee 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. 

“I’ve been working at Ralphs for about eight years now, and having a good union job has really helped me get a leg-up in life by providing me with stable wages, affordable healthcare, workplace protections and the ability to advocate for my co-workers,” said Pio Figueroa, a grocery clerk at Ralphs in Laguna Beach. “Mergers can be devastating for young workers like myself who are already struggling to get by. I want to be able to plan for a future that includes having a home, starting a family, continuing my education, and giving back to the community I live in. AB 647 would ensure I can plan for my future in the case that my job is threatened by corporate greed.”

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. 

“Mergers are never good in the grocery business. It’s essential to keep knowledgeable workers in their jobs and their communities so customers can rely on getting their groceries safely,” said Andrea Zinder, president, UFCW Local 324. “Mergers and acquisitions threaten the years of knowledge workers gain about health and safety standards, what produce and goods customers in that store want to buy and more. AB 647’s retention and rehiring policies will ensure customers don’t lose out when a new company comes in. This bill is a key priority bill for UFCW members this year and we’re thankful the Senate Labor Committee agreed.” 

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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June 22, 2023

Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]