Impact of Kroger Albertsons megamerger would be felt far beyond the grocery store

While the majority of the profit used to go to cattle producers or farmers, it now goes to retailers due to growing consolidation in the grocery industry.

Opinion by Rena Wong, president, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 663

July 23, 2023

Over 130 years ago, our nation unanimously passed the first piece of antitrust legislation, the Sherman Act, to defend one simple but fundamental idea: no company should be allowed to get so big that they no longer need to compete for the customers, workers and communities that keep their doors open.

Lawmakers at the time saw the value in protecting the public from a single company having too much control over the market. Regulators today will have to decide if they feel the same as they consider the proposed Kroger Albertsons megamerger, which would create a company so large that its impact will be felt far beyond the grocery store.

As the President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 here in Minnesota, representing over 6,000 members that work in meatpacking and food processing around the state, I am deeply concerned about how this megamerger will affect all Americans, and in particular, my members.

If you look back at data from the USDA on where your money goes when you buy beef from the grocery store, you will notice a trend. Over the past four decades, there has been a complete reversal. While the majority of the profit used to go to cattle producers or farmers, it now goes to retailers due to growing consolidation in the grocery industry.

This trend has left farmers and ranchers without a fair price and forced hundreds of thousands out of business, devastating our rural communities and making U.S. consumers alarmingly more dependent on imported food.

As companies like Kroger get larger and larger, they don’t just squeeze out competition in their own industry. Increasing retail concentration also enhances the monopoly power of big supermarket chains to the point where they are able to take an ever larger share of a supplier’s profits because those suppliers can no longer afford to be removed from the grocery shelves of the big retailers. This creates a ripple effect where smaller or newer suppliers can’t compete and larger ones have less money to pay their staff. All of this is worse for consumers too. They will have less choices at the grocery store and they will be forced to pay more for the fewer products that are left.

Given all that essential workers and the communities they serve have endured over these many years, we deserve to know whether such a massive merger will raise food prices even higher than the current record levels and whether it will cause a reduction of choices in stores. But Kroger isn’t offering up all the answers, and in the absence of unbiased facts,one must conclude that this merger is bad for Worthington, for workers, and for America.

For the UFCW, this absence of facts has led our 1.3 million members, many of which are also your local grocery workers, to unanimously pass a resolution against this merger. And now the time has come for all of us to stand together against any merger that would hurt the wallets, choices, or wages of hard-working Americans.

For the sake of our community, the Kroger and Albertsons megamerger must be stopped. Doing so begins with Worthington citizens joining with millions of others to voice their opposition to this megamerger to their local, state and federal leaders.