More than 8,000 Kroger grocery workers have gone on strike this week in Colorado to push for higher wages and healthcare benefits, as a new study revealed that 75 percent of employees are food insecure.
Around 8,400 unionized employees at King Soopers, a grocery chain owned by Kroger, walked off the job Wednesday morning, demanding wage increases, better retirement benefits, and a safer work environment during the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Kroger has called the strike “reckless and self-serving” and has hired outside workers to replace striking staff that is affecting around half of its 151 King Sooper locations.
“I’ve been robbed at gun point, I’ve been screamed at, I’ve been hit, I’ve been push, I’ve been spit at, I’ve had merchandise thrown at me, and I have had Covid at the company. There is no security more than 50% of the time,” Loni Madrid, a King Soopers worker, wrote online about her experience working at the chain. “I’ve been on food stamps and housing. I’ve had to tell our son ‘sorry we don’t have enough money.’”
The union that represents the workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said that while its rank-and-file made sure people got fed throughout the entire pandemic, its own members couldn’t afford to food themselves.
Kroger workers’ rate of food insecurity is seven times the national average, according to a survey released Monday by the Economic Roundtable of more than 10,000 Kroger employees, including some of those now striking.
The average full-time employee takes home less than $30,000 and nearly two-thirds of workers say they do not make enough money to pay expenses and afford necessities, it reported.
Only 39 percent of the grocery store employees surveyed said they are unable to pay for groceries themselves, according to the report.
Kroger is one of America’s largest employers, with almost half a million workers. 14 percent of those surveyed also reported being currently homeless, or having been homeless in the past year.
The grocery giant, which has seen its stock rise by almost 50 percent in the past year, told The Post it is “disappointed” by the strike and said the Economic Rountable’s survery is “misleading.”
The chain said the survey’s claim that “more than two-thirds of Kroger workers struggle to afford food, housing or other basic needs” was untrue. Kroger provides “competitive wages” and offers jobs to “underserved populations” that provide upward mobility, it said.
The chain recently came under fire for increasing the prices of at-home COVID-19 tests.