Kroger store and old man

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen made $20 million in 2020, but Kroger recently shut down their Refugee Road store. 

Full-time Kroger store employees in Central Ohio who are also members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union 1059 (UFCW) overwhelmingly voted “no” this week to a new three-year contract.

No doubt this is another victory for the working class of Central Ohio, as the Free Press spoke to over a dozen local Kroger employees and all agreed this is the first time in at least two decades a contract has been sent back to the bargaining table demanding higher pay, more benefits, and – most importantly – more respect.  

Earlier this week local Kroger employees were telling the World Socialist Web Site ( that the three-year deal was “abysmal” or “woefully inadequate,” and that the UFCW “has sold out to Kroger.”

Disturbing is how this labor story will probably be told by only and the Free Press because the rest of the local media is sold out to the Cincinnati-based Kroger ad dollar.

Nonetheless, the pandemic proved how important the grocery store is to a community. Who knows how any community would have fared if it wasn’t for these front-line workers who risked their lives while working understaffed and dealing with privileged, impatient customers.

With that in mind, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen – also a fervent Trump supporter who worked from home during the pandemic – made $20 million in 2020. The average median income for all Kroger employees, which includes part-timers, is $24,000.

According to the, the proposed 3-year contract which was rejected offered “a paltry 65 cents in the first year, followed by 50 cents in the last two years. But not all workers will receive even this low amount. Top pay for clerks is currently $17.10 and will only rise to $18.25. As inflation continues to rise towards 10 percent a year, such raises are really a pay cut for most workers who will see the value of their raise wiped out each year.”

One 20-year Kroger employee told the Free Press they can’t recall one contract ever being forced back to the bargaining table.

“I’ve never voted ‘yes’ for any contract. I’ve always voted ‘no’ because it’s never enough for how hard I work. But it’s passed each time without the union going back for more,” said the source who refused to offer their name for publication. “Except this time.”

Kroger UFCW members also said they were disgusted over how the vote was taken. Instead of members voting at their store, the UFCW required members to travel to four locations around Central Ohio to cast a vote. Considering how many single mothers work for Kroger as cashiers or in the bakery, this simply does not make sense.

In the summer of 2021 the Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit from California, surveyed over 10,000 Kroger employees, and 63 percent said, “they didn’t earn enough monthly to cover basic expenses” and “36 percent worry about being evicted.”

Worse, is how Kroger corporate and its shareholders are getting more obscenely rich during this era of severe inflation.

Back in March Kroger’s stock jumped 10 percent after CEO McMullen told investors Kroger was (weirdly) going to help customers balance their budgets – good luck with that when a single apple costs $2. Fourth quarter revenue (fiscal year 2021) reached $33 billion with a profit of $965 million, as both numbers obviously wowed Wall Street analysts.

But even with nearly $1 billion in profits for a single quarter, Southeast side residents were stunned when Kroger shut down its Refugee Road location in May.

Many rank-and-file Kroger employees may not be aware that Kroger’s Board of Directors in June increased its dividend payout to shareholders by 24 percent, which marks the 16th consecutive year of dividend increases.

The annual dividend payout from Kroger is now $1.04 a year per share. The Vanguard Group is the largest Kroger shareholder, with 11%, or 81 million shares. BlackRock is the second largest, owning 10%, or 61 million shares. 

Kroger store employees may not fully understand how dividends work and that’s probably always been the plan.

But here’s a bottom line about Kroger dividend payouts: There are tens-of-thousands of Kroger shareholders who have never worked a day of their lives in a Kroger store where the impatient and privileged love to treat those who kept us alive during the pandemic like dog poop.