Ralphs, Food 4 Less Workers Not Earning Living Wages, Report Says – Orange County Register

There was a time when landing a job in a big supermarket was a step into the middle class.

Twenty years ago, many grocery store jobs were full-time with wages that allowed workers to afford decent housing, support their families, and have enough money for a vacation.

A new report from Economic round table says that is no longer the case.

The study – which surveyed 36,795 Kroger employees, including those working for the company’s Ralphs and Food 4 Less chains in Southern California, Colorado and Washington’s Puget Sound area – shows that the living and working conditions of Kroger workers have declined significantly over the past 20 years.

But a Kroger ndp | analysis report, contradicts the roundtable study, saying it is misleading. The Kroger report notes that the Rountable study was endorsed by various local chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers Unionwhich represents the workers.

Their employment contract must be renewed in March.

Kenneth Juarez, a department manager at Ralphs in Pasadena, says his $23 hourly wage is not keeping pace with inflation and rising house prices.

“When I got hired by Ralphs 26 years ago, it was a middle-class job,” Juarez said. “But now I have to drive 60 miles to work from Hesperia because I can’t afford to live in Pasadena.”

The roundtable report says Kroger’s current business strategy is based on “part-time, low-wage work with ever-changing schedules.”

Kroger is the sole employer for 86% of its workers, according to the study, and the salary is far from adequate.

Homeless and borrowing money

More than two-fifths of respondents in the roundtable report said they had to borrow money from family or friends in the past year to pay for basic expenses, and 14% said they were currently homeless or have been homeless in the past year.

Working full time to earn a living wage would force the supermarket giant to pay its core workers $22 an hour, or $45,760 a year, the study found, but the average Kroger worker only earns $29,655. $ per year – $16,105 less annual salaries needed to pay for basic necessities.

Nam Pham, managing partner of ndp, who co-authored his firm’s report, said critics had selected partial information, incomplete data and anecdotes to spread ‘negative and inaccurate details’ about compensation and benefits provided. by Kroger companies.

“Based on actual Kroger data and official government data, our findings show that Ralphs and Food 4 Less pay hourly associates higher wages and benefits than their peers across the retail industry as a whole. detail,” he said.

The ndp report shows that Kroger pays workers in western states an average of $18.27 per hour, more than the average hourly wage at food and beverage stores ($17.49), general merchandise stores ($17.14), beer, wine and liquor stores ($16.10) and gas stations. ($15.95).

Full-time Kroger employees working in western states average $35,078 a year, the npd said. And when the company’s health care and retirement benefits are added at the rate of $5.61 an hour, total compensation rises to $45,849 per year.

Most work part-time

But Roundtable notes that 70% of employees in Kroger’s western states work part-time, with most working an average of around 30 hours a week. This reduces the annual salary to $26,308 without benefits and $34,387 with benefits.

In California, full-time Kroger workers average $46,963 a year with benefits, but the total compensation for an employee who works 30 hours a week is $35,222.

Beyond that, working hours are erratic.

More than half of Kroger workers have schedules that change at least weekly, according to the roundtable report, adding that 13% have schedules that change daily and a quarter of workers are notified of the changes on the same day. or just a day in advance.

Nearly two-thirds of Kroger workers polled by the Economic Roundtable said they don’t make enough money to pay basic expenses each month. Forty-four percent say they can’t pay their rent and 39% said they can’t afford all the groceries they need.

What workers want

The roundtable report includes several recommendations, including:

— Immediate housing assistance for Kroger employees who are homeless or facing eviction (Note: Kroger already has a Helping Hands fund that provides assistance to associates going through significant life events, including challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic)

– Double the share of Kroger workers who have full-time jobs to 60% from 30%

— Offering a 50% discount on all groceries to Kroger workers to end their food insecurity

— Provide childcare subsidies to Kroger employees who have children under 12

The npd analysis notes that Kroger’s earnings are very slim. In 2020, the Cincinnati-based company’s net profit was 2.1% of sales. That’s considerably lower than the profit margin of other retailers that also sell groceries, including Target (7.1%), Amazon (5.9%), Walmart (4.1%) and Costco (3 .5%), according to the study.

Kroger also touts its benefits package, which includes retirement savings and health care, on-demand access to mental health care, opportunities for career advancement, tuition assistance, scholarships, volunteer opportunities and grocery discounts.

Sixty-three percent of Kroger California workers have been with the company for at least three years, according to the npd report, and 41.5 percent have been with the company for more than 10 years.

Juarez said Kroger should start cutting costs from top to bottom.

“Executives should be willing to earn less so people on the front lines like me can earn more,” he said. “They need to change that paradigm, and it’s going to take someone like me to be an example.”

Salaire.com Kroger President and CEO Rodney McMullen received more than $20.5 million in total compensation for 2020. This included more than $1.3 million in base salary, in addition to bonuses, stock awards, non-stock incentive compensation and various other benefits.

Michael A. Bynum