FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 3/25,21
Bertha Rodriguez, Bertha.Rodriguez@ufcw770.org, (213) 453-6276
Ralphs Grocery Workers and Community Members Join Forces, Call on Kroger to Stop Closing Neighborhood Stores
Employees and customers advocate for hazard pay and the right of communities to access affordable fresh food
Los Angeles– Committed to stop the closure of their supermarket and 2 additional stores slated to shut down in mid-May in Los Angeles, employees and customers held a press conference and Passover Seder on March 25th. They were joined by faith leaders at a Ralphs store in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood to call on Kroger to stop closing stores that are vital to the community.
On March 10, one week after the City of Los Angeles approved an ordinance mandating temporary $5 hazard pay for grocery and drug retail workers, Kroger announced the closure of 3 LA-area stores. The store closures have an impact on 250 workers and their families. Kroger falsely claims that these stores are closing as a result of hazard pay.
“The whole point of the hazard pay is for us to be compensated for all the hard work we do and the higher risk of Covid infection that we face while doing our jobs. As we continue to push through the pandemic, essential grocery workers are dealing with extremely high levels of anxiety because we do more than just bag groceries and stock shelves. While helping our communities buy their food so they can sustain their families, we’ve also experienced verbal and even physical abuse when reminding people to keep social distance or wear their facemasks properly,” says Brittany Bouknight, an employee at a Ralphs store on Pico Boulevard, one of the supermarkets set to shut down.
“And now Kroger is telling me I’m potentially going to lose my job? We really don’t deserve this! Closing all these stores isn’t the right thing. I’m calling on Kroger to stop cutting workers’ hours, to not lay off workers, and to keep our stores open.”
“One year into the pandemic, grocery employees have worked on the front lines and their work was recognized with Hero Pay because they are heroes. It’s unconscionable that Kroger would shut down three stores and imply that it is because of the mandate to pay their workers what they deserve,” said Rabbi Aryeh Cohen who led the Passover Seder. “This vile act makes Ralphs/Kroger the Pharaoh of the year. An employer who operates under the impression that they can do whatever they want, with impunity, and suffer no consequences. This should not be allowed.”The stores that are closing are vital to the surrounding communities since they offer access to fresh and affordable groceries especially for the elderly population and those who rely on public transportation. The Ralphs store in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood offers a wide selection of kosher products and is important to the Jewish community.
Kroger is the largest supermarket chain in the country and it increased its profits by 56% to $2.6 billion and its sales by 14% to $120.8 billion during the pandemic while its workers risked their health and their lives to serve their customers.
During the action at the Ralphs store, workers and community members distributed flyers to customers encouraging them to call Kroger’s corporate office and leave a message for the company to stop closing stores in their communities. They also encouraged shoppers to sign an online petition to save the stores, and to protect the jobs and livelihoods of more than 250 workers and their families: bit.ly/ShameOnKrogerLA
About UFCW Local 770:
UFCW Local 770 represents over 25,000 grocery and drug retail workers in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. Overall, the union represents more than 30,000 members in the retail food, retail pharmacy, meatpacking and food processing, laboratory, and cannabis industries.
Photo credit: UFCW 770