The Real Reason Employees Are Furious With Kroger

Although 2021 is just a little over one month in, it has started to stack up as a year where workers can expect some real changes. According to Eater, Chicago restaurants have begun raising menu prices to accommodate pay increases for staff, and fast food employees went on strike to demand a national pay increase on Jan. 15 (via Business Insider). The shake-ups continue on the West Coast, as tensions have risen between Kroger management and staff in the Long Beach, California area.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kroger made the decision to close two stores in Long Beach as a direct result of a city-mandated law bumping grocery workers' pay up by $4 per hour as "hero pay." The closures have left 200 former staff members unemployed, while Kroger defended the closure, claiming that the stores in question couldn't compete in their respective areas and had proved unprofitable (via Los Angeles Times).

The local politicians that sponsored the 120-day ordinance to increase grocery worker pay were left stunned. Long Beach Councilwoman Mary Zendejas, who sponsored the ordinance, offered scathing comments on the closure, pointing out that one of the grocery stores that Kroger shuttered catered specifically to the needs of customers with low income. She also found it upsetting that Kroger felt like it couldn't pay its employees properly, despite drawing in $2 billion more in revenue between 2019 and 2020 (via Los Angeles Times). While the decision to close the locations has angered many, workers feel the most fury right now.

Long Beach grocery unions push back against Kroger

When workers learned of the shuttering of the two locations, the local grocery worker union released a statement regarding the situation. In this statement sent to Mashed, Andrea Zinder, president of the affected union, attacked Kroger's decision to displace its work staff via the closure. "Kroger closing these stores is a clear attempt to intimidate and discourage workers from standing up and using their voice to create better working conditions and wages," Zinder said. "Our members, and all essential workers, have been working under enormous stress, exposed every single day they go into work to the virus with little support from their employer."

According to the statement, the union claims that Kroger unjustly misled the public when the grocery chain announced that the hazard pay would drive grocery prices up and disrupt the commerce chain, despite Kroger pulling in massive amounts of cash in the past year. This sentiment created the vast majority of rage that workers have directed against the company. Only time can tell what happens next, but workers and Kroger face a tough situation in the coming days as this situation unfolds.