Kroger workers are America\’s latest to vote for a strike

Is “Striketober” evolving into a “Strikesgiving”? Besides the ongoing labor strikes at Kellogg (among America’s biggest food companies) and John Deere (America’s biggest farm-equipment manufacturer), and one that Kaiser Permanente (a top U.S. healthcare provider) just averted this week, Houston-area employees at Kroger (America’s largest grocery chain) say they’ve also voted to walk off the job. They number 14,000 workers, and for weeks Kroger and their union—UFCW Local 455—have been locked in heated contract negotiations.

The union argues the company’s proposals aren’t offering enough money or adequate healthcare. A vote was just held at over 100 Houston locations so workers could weigh in on Kroger’s latest proposal. The union reported last night that “a record-breaking number of members” had cast votes, and 97% of them had rejected the contract. In the same vote, they also authorized the union to call for a strike, and Local 455 tells the Houston Chronicle it could happen “within a week”—during the year’s busiest shopping days for Kroger.

In a statement announcing the strike vote, Local 455 president Brandon Hopkins said: “Even as Kroger has made billions in profits during this pandemic, the company has proposed a contract that would force these essential workers to pay more for healthcare and would reduce full-time positions that are vital to providing the strong customer service shoppers deserve.” Probably not cooling tensions were reports that Kroger was calling the police on some workers as they arrived at stores to vote on the contract.

Kroger workers with UFCW Local 455 in Houston are taking a strike authorization vote. The vote is taking place at work — but cops have repeatedly been called on voters! i.e. people who work there! Wild.

— Jonah Furman (@JonahFurman) November 10, 2021

Yesterday, Kroger’s Houston division posted a notice to its website telling workers that “It’s business as usual: Strike authorization does not mean a strike. Report to work according to your regular schedule.”

Local 455 president Hopkins also went on to say, “To be clear, a strike is always a last resort. Our hope is that Kroger will do the right thing and put Houston families first by returning to the negotiating table.”