Should Kroger be allowed to buy one of its biggest competitors?
On November 1, Attorney General Phil Weiser and Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan held a listening session in Denver about a proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons.
Albertsons, which owns Safeway, and Kroger, which owns King Soopers, announced a plan to merge about a year ago.
If approved, the close to $25 billion deal would make Kroger the owner of all Colorado King Soopers, City Market, Albertsons, and Safeway stores by early 2024.
Kroger would then own around 44 percent of the entire grocery store market in Colorado.
There was standing room only at Wednesday's event, with everyone in attendance seemingly opposed to the merger, as evidenced by the response to FTC Chair Lina Khan's query to the crowd.
“Is there anybody here who supports the merger and wants to share any reasons for it?” she asked.
The crowd at the Mi Casa Resource Center burst out laughing.
David Seligman, a Denver attorney who runs Towards Justice, a legal non-profit that supports labor rights, said that there are real concerns about workers losing gains that they won in the recent strikes if the merger goes ahead.
" Last year, there was a strike in Colorado of King Soopers, when workers, communities, and consumers stood together to demand better wages and working conditions for workers who were absolutely essential during the pandemic, even as grocery stores were reaping tremendous profits," he said.
"Now, what would have happened if King Soopers had known that those workers weren't bargaining with any other grocery stores, right? What would have happened if consumers didn't have anywhere else to shop? And ultimately that's what's so dangerous about this merger, right? It undermines the power that we have as communities, as workers, and as consumers in holding corporations accountable. That's why we've got to stop it."
King Soopers had no representatives at the meeting but released a statement:
"To call this a 'public listening session' is disingenuous and disheartening. It must have been disappointing to Attorney General Weiser to see his attempt at a public forum co-opted and turned into an anti-merger rally instead of a true public forum representing a broad cross-section of citizens. Even representatives of groups that support King Soopers were silenced by a raucous crowd of out-of-state interests. Only non-unionized retailers, like Walmart and Amazon, will benefit if this merger is blocked. In fact, Kroger joining with Albertsons will mean lower prices for customers, secure union jobs and more food directed to hungry families, with 10 billion meals committed to people in need across America by 2030."
AG Weiser has conducted a state-wide tour of communities that would be impacted by the merger.
His office is continuing to take public comment at coag.gov/grocerymerger.
This story from KGNUwas shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.