WASHINGTON, D.C. - With a "stop the merger" sign in hand, Naomi Oligario of Port Orchard, a 37-year Safeway employee, on Tuesday joined fellow United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 3000 members on Capitol Hill in speaking out against a proposed merger of the country's two largest grocers, Kroger and Albertsons, ahead of a Senate hearing.
Six grocery worker unions representing more than 100,000 Kroger and Albertsons workers in 12 states and the District of Columbia gathered on Tuesday to demand regulators halt the proposed merger between Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, and Albertsons, which owns Safeway, before a hearing hosted by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights.
The two companies in October announced a merger agreement in which Kroger plans to acquire Albertsons for nearly $25 billion. Albertsons declared it would pay shareholders special dividends of $6.85 per share in connection with the merger agreement, which could be nearly $4 billion in special dividends in total. Representatives of United Food and Commercial Workers unions have been taking action to intervene and stop the deal since the merger plan was announced.
Oligario was among the five grocery workers who spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill. As a Safeway employee, she said she witnessed the negative impact that followed Albertsons acquiring Safeway in 2015 - hundreds of stores closed across the western U.S. and many workers, including her friends, lost their jobs, Oligario said at the news conference.
"We are all concerned with this proposed merger and the $4 billion giveaway to rich shareholders instead of investing in us - the workers who helped make the profits," Oligario said at the conference. "We need safer stores. Our customers need lower prices. We need more competition. Not less."
UFCW 3000 represents workers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Other local unions who organized the news conference were UFCW 7 of Colorado and Wyoming, UFCW 770 of Southern California, UFCW 5 of Northern California, UFCW 324 of Orange County and Southern Los Angeles County in California and UFCW 400 of Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
"Essential grocery workers have strongly opposed this proposed merger from day one because we knew it would cause stores to close, jobs to be lost, and prices to go up," President of UFCW 3000 Faye Guenther said in a statement.
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On Nov. 1, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, seeking to stop the merger. A temporary restraining order was granted through Dec. 9 until the matter can get a full hearing on antitrust grounds, according to the union.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Port Orchard Safeway worker adds voice in D.C. opposing grocery merger