Save Our Retailer – Knock LA
According to Kroger’s website, the grocery chain is “on a mission to end hunger in the communities we call home”. It advertises a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index of the Human Rights Campaign. “Every community is unique, but our common goal is to be welcome in the neighborhoods we operate in and to help people live healthier lives,” says Cincinnati-based Kroger Co.
Our community has seen many outrageous betrayals over the past year, but Kroger, who is closing stores in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Seattle to avoid paying dangers, is especially hollow and troubling. Despite a $ 2.6 billion gain since the pandemic began, the company is closing seven locations in high-risk, food-poor areas.
Los Angeles City Council passed the local Hazard Payment Ordinance last month. It is a very temporary, humble law that lasts 120 days – after incessant nationwide news that our “unsung heroes” deserve our gratitude – and adds a “hero wage” of $ 5 an hour for a few months of necessary work. Kroger is the only food company planning to shut down in lieu of complying with this law. Requests for injunctions against these new risk payment regulations were flatly denied. Most of the leading retailers in the United States made record profits during the pandemic, but that increase in profits is obviously not due to the workers or has benefited the neighborhood.
Several Kroger stores are expected to be opened instead, including a Ralphs at 3300 West Slauson Ave. and a Food 4 Less on 5420 Sunset Boulevard, to close in May. Both stores are located in Los Angeles food deserts or in metropolitan areas where residents do not have access to affordable groceries. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that 2.3 million Americans lived without a car more than a mile from a grocery store. The closure of these particular supermarkets would be another major blow to a rapidly developing city.
Last week, activists organized two rallies to protest these shop closings. The first took place last Saturday, April 3rd, at Ralphs in south Los Angeles, organized by a coalition that included the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice, Union del Barrio and the United Workers Assembly. Protesters marched outside the store, and organizers and parishioners spoke to the crowd.
Harriet Tubman Center organizer John Parker speaks at the rally in South LA (Photo: Shelby Eggers)
“During the pandemic, workers died to make a profit … they didn’t make this money, the workers in this business made this money,” said John Parker, organizer of the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice in LA. “2.6 billion [dollars] during the pandemic and they don’t want to give us an extra $ 5? That is a problem with a balance of power. So we have to make our own strength. If they say, “We don’t have enough money because it isn’t profitable enough,” that is not our concern. The workers here and the community here have already bought and paid for this shop. This is her shop. You have no right to take our jobs. “
Union workers and comrades gathered on Thursday at Food 4 Less on 5400 Sunset Blvd. East Hollywood block, roaring chants of “UNION POWER” and “SAVE OUR STORE” and form a picket line.
“These workers deserve a raise. They made it all from LA Counties to Pasadena, Glendale, Montebello and Long Beach, “said Kathy Finn, UFCW 770 secretary and treasurer.” Soon after, Kroger announced the closure of stores. They did this to threaten and harass our communities. “
Rally at Food 4 Less in Hollywood (Photo: Steven Louis)
According to UFCW 770, Kroger is misrepresenting the truth when claiming that the deals in question underperformed and detracted from the bottom line. After an hour of marching and singing outside the shop, the comrades picketed the shop and walked from the aisles to the back of the shop. Food 4 Fewer workers on the shift cheered in solidarity as shoppers watched or pulled out their phones to record.
“I’m angry, I’m disappointed,” said Omar Hernandez, an employee with the Food 4 Less store. “In order not to be appreciated for the hard work we have done in this pandemic … so that they don’t even recognize us? We are the ones here for the community. We are here day and night. And we work hard. “
Both rallies commemorated the Ralphs strikes in 2003. UFCW employees at Ralphs, another Kroger Co. supermarket chain, held out after management tried to cut benefits. The chain pleaded guilty to hiring replacement workers during the strike, resulting in a two-stage settlement over $ 70 million in fines and reimbursements from workers.
Rally at Food 4 Less in Hollywood (Photo: Steven Louis)
“These workers risked their lives in a very, very difficult time,” added Skylar Summers, a customer at the Food 4 Less site and wife of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council for District 5. “We can’t forget the word HERO applies for them as well as for the doctors who treat our sick. They fed our communities with much less PPE. “
Kroger Co. has a market capitalization of approximately $ 24 billion. William McMullen, CEO of the company since 2014, received a total of $ 21 million in February 2020, a 19 percent increase in compensation over the previous year. Mike Schlotman, the company’s CFO, received a 26 percent increase to $ 5.5 million, including a $ 1.4 million bonus – an increase of 563 percent over the previous year.
“They say if your city passes the risk we will close your stores, too,” said Finn. “This place makes nearly a million dollars a week in sales. This is a powerful business … they made $ 2.6 billion in profits last year and they are not sharing it with the people who make those profits for them. “
“It’s despicable,” she added. “You shut down shops and deny 250 workers in the city of LA? Despicable. We are here to demand that Kroger get better. ”