WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights are expected to meet Tuesday afternoon with the CEOs of Kroger and Albertsons to discuss the "competitive impact" of their potential merger.
The two companies announced the merger in October, with both of its boards supporting the transaction.
Ahead of the hearing, unions representing the companies' employees are gathering for a press conference to express their opposition.
Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7, which represents King Soopers and Safeway workers in Colorado, worries her members are going to lose their jobs and stores will be closed.
Kroger owns King Soopers, and Albertsons owns Safeway.
"We just went through this in 2014 when Albertsons and Safeway merged. We lost over 33 stores immediately, and workers lost their jobs," she said over Zoom Monday.
In a press release from the October announcement, Kroger claims the merger will help the company reduce prices and increase wages for its workers. Cordova disagrees.
"It's bad for workers, it's going to be bad for consumers. There's going to be less choice. Obviously, there's going to be higher prices, we believe," she said.
As part of the merger, Albertsons will divest between 100 to 375 stores to a new company called SpinCo. It's unclear how many of its 105 stores in Colorado would be affected. Kroger has 148 stores in Colorado.
Carol McMillian, a bakery manager at a King Soopers store in east Aurora, is worried about job security as she says she lost her job during the Albertsons-Safeway merger.
"I moved over to King Soopers from Safeway, you know, believing that my job was secure and this was a place that I could work, be comfortable and be happy and retire from. But now, that's all up in the air," she said. "I'm kind of getting that same feeling right now, so there's, yeah, there's quite a bit of uncertainty right now."
If all goes according to plan, the merger will happen in early 2024. Cordova and others hope it gets blocked.
Denver7 received the following statement from Kroger regarding the union's concerns about potential job losses and store closures, which does not address the latter:
"The Kroger Family of Companies proudly operates union grocery stores, and this merger secures the long-term future of union jobs. While unionization in the broader retail industry has declined, Kroger has grown our unionized workforce by more than 100,000 associates since 2012. We fully expect this growth in union jobs to continue. The transaction will also benefit America’s consumers and communities by expanding access to fresh, affordable food. We look forward to continuing our active engagement with key leaders of the UFCW and the 106 locals from across the country and working constructively with the FTC and all other interested parties as we work to complete the transaction and unlock the many benefits it offers."