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Wyden, colleagues slam Kroger over ‘widespread wage theft,’ Albertsons merger; Fred Meyer issues response

KTVZ file

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, on Thursday joined two Senate colleagues to push for accountability in a letter to Kroger after the company’s shift to a new payroll system left thousands of workers across the country short on their paychecks.

“We are writing today regarding alarming new reports of Kroger’s involvement in the mistreatment of workers and consumers through widespread and unresolved wage theft. These reports indicate that ‘systemic and widespread errors’ by Kroger resulted in thousands of your employees experiencing delays and missing wages in their paychecks in late 2022,” Wyden and colleagues wrote to Kroger Chairman and CEO, Rodney McMullen. “Given your company’s record of anti-worker policies, and your ongoing attempt to push through a merger that would harm both consumers and workers, we are writing to request a full explanation of how your workers will be compensated for any lost or delayed wages, and how you will prevent future wage theft.”

The senators’ letter follows four class-action lawsuits alleging that Kroger, the country’s second-largest grocery chain, engaged in widespread wage theft.

“Even as your company was failing to address concerns about systemic wage theft, you have been pushing through a $24.6 billion merger with Albertsons Companies, Inc. that further threatens workers’ wages and jobs and hurts consumers by reducing competition among grocers,'' the lawmakers continued. “This merger would exacerbate corporate consolidation in the grocery sector, and likely result in the shuttering of some stores across the country and the firing of workers from both Kroger and Albertsons.”

The letter concludes with the senators’ requesting a full accounting on how the widespread wage theft occurred and pressing the grocery giant on how it will compensate affected workers before any merger with Albertsons. 

The letter was led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Alongside Wyden, the letter was joined by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The text of the letter is here.

A spokesperson for Fred Meyer, the Northwest grocery store chain owned by Kroger, provided this statement to NewsChannel 21 on both issues:

In response to the letter signed by Senator Warren and Senator Wyden, we would like to share the following pertaining to payroll:

“While the majority of issues have been resolved, we understand these issues have caused undue difficulty for the impacted associates. Teams are working around the clock to resolve payroll issues for the remaining small percentage of associates affected by these processing errors. We are taking multiple steps to pay our associates as quickly as possible, including overnighting checks to impacted associates.”

As it relates to their comments on the proposed merger that is under regulatory review:

“Fred Meyer associates are at the center of everything we do – we value and respect each of our team members. The merger will provide meaningful benefits for our associates, including new and exciting growth opportunities. Fred Meyer and the Kroger Family of Stores are committed to investing $1 billion to raise wages and improve comprehensive, industry-leading benefits. This builds on our track record of supporting associates, including the incremental $1.2 billion the company has invested in wages and comprehensive benefits since 2018. Fred Meyer and the Kroger Family of Stores will not close any stores, distribution centers or manufacturing facilities as a result of this merger, including stores that may need to be divested to obtain regulatory approval.”

Article Topic Follows: Business

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