the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Nov 7, 2022
The biggest grocery chain in the U.S., Kroger, is buying the second biggest, Albertsons, for 24.6 billion dollars. But these are not just two chain stores—Kroger already owns a lot of other big brands such as Ralphs, Mariano’s, Food 4 Less, Harris Teeter and many others. Same with Albertsons, owner of Jewel-Osco and itself the product of a big merger in 2015, when the Wall Street firms that owned Albertsons bought Safeway for 9.2 billion dollars.
When Kroger and Albertsons announced the merger, they also announced that they would pay Albertsons shareholders a “special dividend” worth four billion dollars on November 7. The biggest of these shareholders are Cerberus Capital Management and Apollo Capital, two private equity firms, which specialize in buying and selling companies in order to bleed them dry.
The billions and billions of dollars these companies use to buy each other up are squeezed out of their workers. Pay for supermarket workers is so low, many of them can’t even afford rent. A survey of 37,000 Kroger workers in Colorado, Seattle and Southern California last year found that one out of seven had experienced homelessness during the previous year. And a big majority—three out of four—of the workers surveyed were found to be food insecure, meaning their wages did not allow for them and their children to be sure to have enough food every day.
And last year, Kroger acted like it was outraged when city governments in Southern California voted “hero pay” for supermarket workers for working during the pandemic. Rather than giving a $4 raise to their workers, who risked their lives during the pandemic, Kroger closed five stores in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, thus punishing the workers and the people in the communities who shop there.
The other way that these big grocery chains make big money is ripping off their customers by hiking their prices at a higher rate than their own costs are going up. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of food people eat at home has increased 13% just over the last year. After this latest merger, we can expect Kroger to increase prices even more, as it will face even less competition than it does today.
Kroger and Albertsons workers can only expect their bosses to get more rapacious. After such mergers, the combined companies close stores and warehouses that are near each other, and lay workers off. As for customers, mergers mean fewer stores to shop at—and sometimes none at all in working-class neighborhoods—as well as higher prices, as mergers eliminate what little competition there is.