Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders lead opposition to Kroger-Albertsons merger

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders lead opposition to Kroger-Albertsons merger

The senses. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan on Tuesday demanding that the regulator oppose the merger between the giants of the Kroger and Albertsons grocery store.

Progressive politicians argued that the proposed $25 billion deal would drive up prices and lower wages, hurting both buyers and workers. Kroger and Albertsons are two of the largest grocery chains in the country.

“Kroger and Albertsons’ stories of aggressive profit making during the pandemic present a dangerous roadmap of how a bigger, more powerful company would act if this acquisition were allowed to continue,” Warren and Sanders wrote.

Lawmakers later called the two companies “anti-competitive and anti-worker.”

“The FTC should, when assessing the impact of a potential merger, consider Kroger’s and Albertsons’ track record of profiteering and massive payouts to executives and large corporations. shareholders while putting their frontline workers at risk,” they wrote.

Warren and Sanders were joined on the letter by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois. (Read the full letter below.)

Kroger and Albertsons have a total of 5,000 stores and 710,000 workers in the United States, with dozens of chains between them, such as Fred Meyer and Ralphs (Kroger) and Safeway and Jewel-Osco (Albertsons).

Workers at many stores of both companies are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. At least four affiliates of this union have come out against the merger, saying they concerns over store closings and layoffs. A Kroger employee recently told Reuters: “I wish they were investing their money to try to lower prices and raise wages, rather than gobble up the competition.”

The boards of both companies unanimously approved the proposed deal, saying it would help them compete with big rivals like Walmart and Amazon. Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen argued in a joint conference statement with Albertsons that together they would “build a more equitable and sustainable food system.” He also noted that the deal would “generate better returns for our shareholders.”

In their letter, Warren and Sanders pointed to a survey of 10,000 Kroger workers conducted by the nonprofit Economic Roundtable last year at the request of UFCW. The authors found that “the living and working conditions for Kroger workers have declined dramatically over the past 20 years,” leaving more than three quarters of the company’s workforce food insecure.

Meaning.  Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), probably talking about corporate greed.
Meaning. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), probably talking about corporate greed.

Bill Clark on Getty Images

“These workers do not have the means to buy a balanced and healthy food”, write the authors of the report. “They run out of food before the end of the month, skip meals and are sometimes hungry. Those with children report being hungry to provide food and other essentials for their children. The exceptionally high rate of food insecurity among Kroger workers is seven times the US average.

The authors also blasted Kroger for end its “hero pay” programwho paid a $2 an hour bonus for working during the pandemic, after just a few weeks in 2020.

Sanders previously said allowing the companies to merge would be “an absolute disaster.”

Kroger and Albertsons would need FTC approval to move forward with the deal, and the agency would have to look closely at how it might affect local markets. Companies are is already about to give in several hundred stores in some areas where they expect the agency to determine that the merged entity would be too powerful.

Khan, a Biden appointee, has plagued business leaders with his scrutiny of mergers since joining the commission in 2021. In the past fiscal year, the commission released more letters of inquiry linked to mergers than in any other year in the past decade, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

“In too many areas of our economy, including agriculture, airlines, health care, we’ve seen a significant consolidation and reduction in competition,” Khan said in an interview with the Journal. “Mergers played a part in that.”

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