February 16, 2023

Senators Warren, Sanders, Wyden Demand Answers from Kroger on Widespread Wage Theft

“Even as your company was failing to address concerns about systemic wage theft, you have been pushing through a $24.6 billion merger with Albertsons Companies, Inc. that further threatens workers’ wages and jobs," the letter reads.

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pushed for accountability in a letter to Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen after Kroger’s shift to a new payroll system left thousands of workers across the country short on their paychecks. The Senators’ letter follows four class-action lawsuits alleging that Kroger, the country’s second-largest grocery chain, engaged in widespread wage theft. In the letter, the Senators pressed the grocery giant on how it will compensate impacted workers and whether the potential Kroger-Albertsons merger would worsen mistreatment of workers.

“We are writing today regarding alarming new reports of Kroger’s involvement in the mistreatment of workers and consumers through widespread and unresolved wage theft. These reports indicate that ‘systemic and widespread errors’ by Kroger resulted in thousands of your employees experiencing delays and missing wages in their paychecks in late 2022,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given your company’s record of anti-worker policies, and your ongoing attempt to push through a merger that would harm both consumers and workers, we are writing to request a full explanation of how your workers will be compensated for any lost or delayed wages, and how you will prevent future wage theft.”

Senators Warren and Sanders previously urged Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to oppose the Kroger-Albertsons merger, arguing that the proposed $25 billion deal would lead to higher prices and lower wages, hurting shoppers and workers alike. Kroger and Albertsons are two of the largest grocery chains in the country.

“Even as your company was failing to address concerns about systemic wage theft, you have been pushing through a $24.6 billion merger with Albertsons Companies, Inc. that further threatens workers’ wages and jobs and hurts consumers by reducing competition among grocers,'' the lawmakers continued. “This merger would exacerbate corporate consolidation in the grocery sector, and likely result in the shuttering of some stores across the country and the firing of workers from both Kroger and Albertsons.”

“Given our concerns regarding your company’s treatment of workers and your proposed merger that would further adversely impact them, we request a full accounting of how this widespread wage theft occurred, and what steps you plan to take to compensate your workers prior to any merger with Albertsons,” the lawmakers concluded.

The lawmakers are urging Kroger to respond in full to their questions about wage theft and how Kroger will compensate its workers no later than March 1, 2023.

Senator Warren has been an outspoken advocate for workers’ rights and oversight of big business to protect workers, the economy, and hardworking families:

  1. On January 5, 2023, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO1) wrote to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in support of their October proposed rule on employee status which would help reclassify potentially thousands of misclassified workers.
  2. On November 3, 2022 Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Chuy García (D-Ill.) wrote to the CEO of Cerberus Capital Management, urging the private equity firm to pause the payment of the $4 billion Albertsons dividend scheduled for Monday and to provide answers about the impact of the dividend on the Kroger-Albertsons merger.
  3. On October 5, 2022 Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) blasted Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for the company’s union-busting campaign, including its ongoing and illegal weaponization of benefits against unionizing workers. 
  4. On June 16, 2022 Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jesús G. “Chuy'' García (D-Ill.) introduced the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, legislation that would provide airport workers with the pay, benefits, and labor standards they deserve after serving on the frontlines of the nation’s aviation system and keeping airports safe through a global pandemic.
  5. On June 2, 2022 U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representatives Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote to Amazon’s President and CEO demanding answers about the company’s proposed worker chat application, which reportedly would ban workers from using certain words and phrases, restricting their ability to discuss their working conditions and basic legal rights, including unionization. 
  6. On May 11, 2022 U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representatives Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote Amazon’s Executive Chairman, Jeff Bezos blasting the company for its failure to answer their questions about policies that led to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, which killed six workers. 
  7. On February 10, 2022 United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Lee (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) announced the introduction of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act. The legislation would strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs. 
  8. On December 20, 2021 Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote to the CEOs of Kroger, Publix, and Albertsons calling on them to justify rewarding executives and shareholders while raising food costs for American families.