Collage of two photos with the lefthand photo depicting a stack of fliers that read, "Stop the $4 Billion Cash Grab! Protect Consumers. Protect Workers." and the righthand photo depicting a grocery store worker handing out these fliers to a customer.

Local Grocery Store Workers Protest Kroger-Albertsons Merger

by Ronnie Estoque


Sam Dancy has worked at the QFC in Westwood Village since the store opened in 1991. He is also a shop steward for UFCW 3000 and was involved in advocacy efforts on behalf of the union for grocery store worker hazard pay during the early part of the pandemic. Dancy, alongside other representatives of UFCW 3000 and other unions across various states, is currently protesting the possible merger between Kroger and Albertsons, which was announced last month.

“My initial reaction is that this proposed merger must be stopped. Because first of all, it would be very devastating to shoppers and workers alike. … This is like a monopoly,” Dancy said.

Albertsons owns both Safeway and Haggen, and there are over 216 Safeway and Albertsons stores in the state, alongside 114 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer and QFC stores — meaning Albertsons and Kroger own most grocery store options for consumers in Washington State.

Tom Geiger is the special projects director at UFCW 3000, and he has been with the union since 2008. UFCW is the largest union in the state, and it represents workers in various industries, including food, retail, and health care. Geiger is concerned the possible merger would negatively affect the food supply chain, reduce competition, and lead to fewer options and increased prices for consumers.

“Those workers really kind of bent over backwards to help their communities, help their neighborhoods. People were shopping twice as much during that [pandemic] period,” Geiger said. “We’re in a full fight mode, and we’ll remain in that mode for as long as we need.”

Photo depicting a stack of fliers that read, "Stop the $4 billion Cash Grab! Protect Consumers. Protect Workers."
“My initial reaction is that this proposed merger must be stopped. Because first of all, it would be very devastating to shoppers and workers alike. … This is like a monopoly,” Sam Dancy, a QFC grocery store worker and shop steward for UFCW 3000, said. (Photo: Tom Geiger)

On Oct. 22, UFCW 3000, UFCW 367, and Teamsters 38 distributed a press release opposing the $4 billion dividend Albertsons planned to pay to its shareholders on Nov. 7. On Oct. 26, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson partnered with a group of six attorneys general from across the U.S. to urge Albertsons to delay the special dividends payment until a review on the proposed merger was completed. And on Nov. 1, Ferguson filed a lawsuit to block the Albertsons payout, arguing that the special dividend payment would undercut Albertsons’ ability to compete with Kroger during the period of time government regulators, including Washington, would be scrutinizing the merger, and that it could potentially leave Albertsons in a “weakened state” if the merger fails — making it harder for unions to secure competitive wages from Albertsons in the following year.

Regarding the merger, Seattle City Councilmember Tammy J. Morales, who had voted against ending hazard pay for grocery workers in the city in August, told the Emerald via email that mergers of giant corporations do nothing for consumers. “They are meant to cut costs to increase profits. This has the potential to dramatically increase food costs, decrease food access and lead to worker layoffs if stores are closed. I worry that a merger like this will increase food insecurity in low-income neighborhoods in Seattle and every other community in the country.”

According to Reuters, on Nov. 8, a U.S. federal court denied requests by attorneys general in California, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., to temporarily block Albertsons’ $4 billion dividend payment, but the payment remained blocked by a Washington State court order. That court set a hearing for Nov. 10, during which a Washington State judge extended the temporary restraining order until another hearing on Thursday, Nov. 17.

“That $4 billion could be better spent to lower the prices of food that consumers are facing right now, because they’re facing unprecedented levels of inflation. And I think a lot of them are worried about the prices going up,” Dancy said. “They’re worried about a monopoly. They’re worried about this, maybe this store possibly closing, that’s the talk that I hear from a lot of people.”

Dancy also expressed concerns about safety in his workplace, which he says management has done little to address, especially regarding the shoplifting that occurs on a daily basis.

“We don’t feel like [Kroger is] investing in the workers, we don’t feel like [it’s] investing in safety in the stores,” Dancy said. “Everything costs so much. It’s funny how everybody uses inflation as a reason to raise the prices of everything, but nobody’s using inflation as a reason to give us pay raises.”

On. Nov. 9, members of UFCW passed out leaflets across the Pacific Northwest to customers shopping in the stores where they’re employed, urging community members to sign on to their joint letter calling on the Federal Trade Commission to stop the Kroger-Albertsons merger. The letter concludes, “The bottom line is that this proposed merger is bad for workers, bad for consumers, bad for communities, bad for the economy—indeed, bad for everyone not associated with Cerberus Capital Management or owning shares in these two companies. We urge you to take immediate action to stop the special dividend payment and block this merger altogether.” 

Photo depicting a grocery store worker and union representative handing out fliers about the Kroger-Albertsons merger to a shopper.
“That $4 billion could be better spent to lower the prices of food that consumers are facing right now, because they’re facing unprecedented levels of inflation. And I think a lot of them are worried about the prices going up,” Sam Dancy, a QFC grocery store worker and shop steward for UFCW 3000, said. “They’re worried about a monopoly. They’re worried about this, maybe this store possibly closing, that’s the talk that I hear from a lot of people.” (Photo: Tom Geiger)

The Emerald has reached out to Kroger for a comment regarding the merger and has not received a response. An Albertsons Companies spokesperson provided this response via email:

“Our planned combination with Kroger will provide significant benefits to consumers, associates, and communities and offers a compelling alternative to larger and non-union competitors. The merger announcement and special dividend mark the successful outcome of the strategic review we launched in February, which considered a wide range of options to build on our success and deliver enhanced value for all our stakeholders. The special dividend allows us to return cash to all of Albertsons Companies’ shareholders. Following the dividend payment, Albertsons Cos. will continue to be well capitalized with a low debt profile and strong free cash flow. Given our financial strength and positive business outlook, we are confident that we will maintain our strong financial position as we work toward the closing of the merger.”


Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.

📸 Featured Image: Albertsons owns both Safeway and Haggen, and there are over 216 Safeway and Albertsons stores in the state, alongside 114 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer and QFC stores — meaning Albertsons and Kroger own most grocery store options for consumers in Washington State. The merger between the two companies would impact food security as well as grocery store worker jobs. (Photo: Tom Geiger)

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