The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Grocery Companies Squeeze Blood from Workers

Jul 18, 2016

In recent contract negotiations, the very big grocery chains Ralphs and Albertsons have proposed a pitiful raise of 10 cents per worker over the next three years, according to the Los Angeles Times. They also want cuts to holiday pay, and to make it harder for the new employees to reach highest pay grade. The entry wage for a grocery worker at the two chains is $10.10. This is barely higher than the current California minimum wage.

The highest pay is also very meager. For example, Erika Bentzen, who has worked for Ralphs for 31 years, makes $20.10 per hour. She says that “I don’t look at it as asking for more, we are just looking to survive here. We are looking for a decent wage for a good job.”

Around 47,000 clerks, meat cutters, and merchandise stockers work for these chains. These two monstrous grocery chains argue that they cannot pay their workers higher wages, because they are not profitable. This is an outright lie. For example, Albertsons is the fourth largest private company in the U.S., with revenues reaching 57.5 billion dollars in 2015, according to Albertsons. Albertsons owns many retail companies. Among them are Safeway and its gas stations, Sav-On Drugs, Bristol Farms, Vons and Pavilions. Albertson’s gross profit margin was more than 25% last year. And its sales increased by more than 5% last year. But, Albertsons reported losses last year, explaining that it had to pay off debt it owed and its interest. So, some rich guy or bank, or whoever owned this debt, made huge profits through accounting wizardry.

It is like a trickster whose hands get the money and hides it on his body. And this trickster turns to the workers and says that he cannot pay workers higher wages, because he does not have any money left in his hands. Maybe not, but if workers can start kicking this trickster hard, we will see the money come out of every pore of his body.