Bernie Sanders writes scathing open letter to Kroger CEO on ‘corporate greed that Americans are sick of’
Senator Bernie Sanders has sent the CEO of Kroger Groceries a searing letter demanding that he treat his employees better amid a workers’ strike in Colorado.
Mr. Sanders, a longtime advocate for workers’ and trade union rights, wrote the letter to W. Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger, to express his “strong support” for the “more than 8,000 workers at United Food and Commercial Local 7 to 78 King Sooper grocery stores owned by Kroger in Colorado which are on strike”.
More than 8,000 grocery store workers quit their jobs in Colorado on January 12 to demand better wages and benefits, as well as increased health and safety measures.
He noted that grocery store workers are demanding higher wages, improved health and disability benefits, and an end to the current “two-tier” vacation and holiday structure.
“Given that more than 1,000 employees of Local 7 King Sooper have contracted Covid-19 and five have died and the tragic shooting in Boulder nearly a year ago, workers are also calling for an increase in protocols for occupational health and safety,” Mr. Sanders wrote.
The senator said he spoke with grocery store workers and learned that the company’s current offer would only provide a 13-cent-per-hour raise, but would also reduce their health care benefits and would make structural changes that would reduce hours and overtime.
In addition, he said stores would give preference to on-demand workers and require employees to sign an anti-competitive “preferred employer” clause that would reduce employers’ wages and benefits if other local grocery stores offered freebies. lower wages and meager benefits.
“In total, your Colorado workers could see their wages reduced by up to $3.34 an hour after taking into account reduced overtime and other benefits,” he wrote.
Mr. Sanders then pointed out that Mr. McMullen was paid $20 million a year and that during the pandemic he had received a $6.4 million increase in his total compensation. He also noted that the company provides more than $1.5 billion in stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders.
The senator compared this to the fact that “many Kroger workers live in poverty and are forced to rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance subsidized by middle-class taxpayers,” citing a recent report showing 14% of Kroger employees. are or have been homeless in the past year. He went on to note that 68% are food insecure.
“This is precisely the type of corporate greed that the American people are fed up with,” Sanders wrote. “If Kroger can afford to pay you more than $20 million and can afford to distribute $1.5 billion in stock buybacks and dividends to its wealthy shareholders, it can afford to provide grocery store employees – the real heroes and heroines of this pandemic – good wages, good benefits, safe working conditions and reliable working hours.