Kroger employee survey reveals shocking wages, conditions

Kroger employees are food insecure, can’t pay for groceries, and some can’t pay rent.

The disclosed data was presented as part of a survey of more than 10,000 Kroger employees called “Hungry at the Table” conducted last summer and published by the Economic Roundtable on January 11.

The survey, labeled by its authors as “the largest independent survey of retail workers ever conducted in the United States”, requested locales 7, 21, 324, and 770 of United Food and Commercial Workers. On “to provide” was held. Reliable, evidence-based analysis of the working and living conditions of Kroger workers.”

The Economic Roundtable reported that Kroger, the fourth largest private employer in the US, had 465,000 employees as of 2020. It is the largest supermarket chain in the United States; It ranks 17th in terms of revenue of approximately $132.5 billion; And it generated about $4.05 billion in operating profit in 2020.

An employee of Food 4 Lace, owned by Kroger, pushes carts in front of supermarket workers gathered to protest in front of a supermarket on February 3, 2021 in Long Beach, California.
Frederick Brown / Getty

About 36,795 Kroger workers from three regions—the Puget Sound area of ​​Washington, the state of Colorado, and Southern California—were requested to participate. However, full surveys were received from 10,287 workers for only a 28 percent response rate.

According to local UFCW membership records, Kroger entities Ralph and King Sopers represented about 29 percent of survey respondents, with Fred Meyer following suit with 21 percent of respondents.

More than three quarters of respondents claimed to be food insecure, as defined by the US Department of Agriculture.

“These workers cannot afford a balanced and healthy diet,” said authors Daniel Fleming, Peter Dreyer, Patrick Burns and Aaron Danielson. “They run out of food, skip meals and sometimes go hungry before the end of the month. People who have children report they go hungry to provide food and other essentials for their babies Kroger workers have a higher rate of food insecurity seven times higher than the American average.”

They say their depression and anxiety reportedly escalated when employees worked during the period of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and risked their own health to keep the shops thriving. Meanwhile, a company from Kroger grew its own profits and revenue, while stock buy-back options also boomed.

About 86 percent of respondents said that Kroger was their only source of employment and income. If the company pays $22 an hour, on average, Kroger employees earn $29,655 annually, or about $16,100 less than the annual living wage.

Other statistics reported in the survey include:

  • Nine out of 10 Kroger workers report that their wages have not increased while basic expenses such as food and housing have increased;
  • Forty percent of workers are unable to pay rent;
  • Twenty-nine percent say they are unable to pay for groceries;
  • Fourteen percent are currently or have been homeless in the past year;
  • Among workers aged 21 to 29, 53 percent are unable to pay rent;
  • More than 40 percent of workers reported that they had to borrow money from family or friends to pay for basic expenses;
  • Thirty-six percent of workers say they worry about eviction.

On January 10, King Sopers and City Market filed charges of unfair labor practice against UFCW Local 7 “for refusing to bargain in good faith”, stating that Local 7 had allegedly “assisted a peaceful settlement”. for” arbitration services rejected.

“After three days of refusing repeated requests to return to the negotiating table, Local 7’s Kim Cordova has now declined a reasonable request for arbitration to work together towards a contract Which will put more money in the pockets of our partners,” said Joe Kelly, president of King Sopers and Citi Market, on the company’s website. “If local 7 does not want to negotiate they should at least have the decency to vote on the current proposal to our allies. Our allies should be treated fairly and transparently and they should have the opportunity to decide whether their And what’s best for them. Family. Right now, Local 7 is using the livelihoods of our allies as pawns in their political game skills.”

A day later, Kelly said in a press release that King Sopers/City Market had proposed “one last, best and final offer” by email to UFCW Local 7, reportedly paying $170 million over three years. Including salary investment and ratification bonus. All support, except for higher investments in health care benefits, which will not threaten premiums that have remained stable for the past 12 years.

in an email to newsweekKroger spokesman Kristal Howard called the UFCW-commissioned report “one-dimensional” and said many of the survey’s claims were “misleading.”

“We care deeply about our partners and show this through a range of actions such as the continued investment of hundreds of millions annually to increase wages and rewards and provide affordable health care benefits, as well as to offer an opportunity culture. Our commitment to working with us is where our partners can thrive and advance, wherever they are in their careers,” Howard said.

She said that since 2017, the company has increased its national average hourly wage rate by 22 percent from $13.66 to $16.68. Howard said the pay increase is in addition to a benefits package that includes market competitive wages, health care, retirement savings, and mental health support, career advancement opportunities, industry-leading tuition assistance, scholarships, volunteer opportunities, grocery discounts . , and other perks and rewards.

“It’s worth noting that the average tenure of a Kroger affiliate is 7-plus years, and we employ every generation (specifically, our associates range in age from 14 to 95),” Howard said.

“One of the most worrying claims” made in the report, she said, is that more than two-thirds of Kroger workers are struggling to make ends meet with food, housing or other basic needs because of low wages and part-time work schedules.

She cited a commission study conducted by the company, which compared compensation not only to peers in the grocery industry, but with the retail industry as a whole. The report refers to the economic contribution of stores in communities in four western states: California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

“We provide first jobs (think baggers, cashiers, stalkers, etc.), second chances, retirement jobs, college gigs, etc. to hundreds of thousands of people,” Howard said. “Kroger was also one of the few employers that could provide employment to individuals during 2020 and 2021 as many companies fired or laid off workers in the hardest-hit sectors such as restaurants, hospitality and food service. In 2020 alone , Kroger hired more than 100,000 additional personnel.”

newsweek Contacted UFCW for comment.

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