Skip to main content

Stewards perform a crucial role  strengthening our union by keeping their coworkers informed and engaged. It is often said that these designated union leaders serve as Local 99’s eyes, ears, backbone, heart and soul in the workplace. They know their contracts, their coworkers, and they know whom to call as they deal with a wide array of issues that come up in the course of a workday.

These dedicated union members are always essential to the work we do. However, they are especially important in a time when our industry is facing an uncertain future. The proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons is the latest in a series of shocks, which include the proliferation of self-checkout lanes and the intrusion of non-union retailers like Amazon, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Aldi.

As we navigate and tackle these challenges, we rely on our stewards to remain educated on fluid situations so that they can dispel misinformation and in collaboration with their union rep, lead their coworkers through uncertainty. As such, I ask that our grocery industry stewards please read the following update carefully so that together, we can keep all members informed.

At the present time, it remains unclear whether the Kroger/Albertsons merger will be allowed to proceed. A U.S. District Court judge has set Aug. 26 as the opening day for a trial to decide the merger’s fate. Eight states have joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in suing to block the deal, including Arizona.

The FTC is suing to block the $25 billion merger because it would reduce competition and lead to higher grocery prices and lower wages for workers.

Meanwhile, the two companies have submitted a modified list of stores that would be sold to C&S Wholesale Grocers, a New Hampshire-based distributor to thousands of independent retailers, should the merger be allowed to move forward.

Supermarket analyst Jeff Metzger recently reported that the updated plan involves selling 579 Kroger and Albertsons stores in markets where they overlap to C&S for $2.9 billion. Under the initial divestiture plan, C&S had previously planned to purchase 413 stores for $1.9 billion.

The revised list of locations to be divested to C&S now includes 101 Albertsons stores in Arizona. Pending the merger’s approval, these stores would be owned by C&S Wholesale Grocers and operate under the Safeway banner. Additionally, C&S would also take over some of Albertsons’ private-label brands.

Kroger and Albertsons have promised that no stores would close as a result of the merger, all frontline employees would remain employed and all existing union contracts would continue. However, there is nothing to guarantee that such promises could be sustained in the long term.

Regardless of the pending merger’s outcome, I assure you that we will do everything in our power to secure the best position possible for our members and their families. The goal is — and will always be —  a smooth transition to ensure members are affected the least. To accomplish this, UFCW is working nationwide at both the local and international union level to make our case to industry leaders as well as local, state and federal government officials.

In the meantime, it is important for our stewards to maintain and strengthen the bonds between our members and their union. Only a strong union, imbued with solidarity through and through, can prevail against the might of powerful, national corporations.

Because of the importance of stewards, Local 99 makes it a priority to grow and strengthen our steward network. To this end, we will be having a union-wide stewards conference in September, and I encourage all stewards to attend. This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn how to make a better tomorrow with your union! Stay tuned for more details to come.