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Amber Sparks

Grocery Companies Behaving Badly: Workers on Responsibility to Communities

If the divide between CEOs and working people seems to be growing all the time, that's because it is. Just yesterday Forbes announced that for the first time, everyone on their list of America's 400 richest people is a billionaire. Meanwhile, working people are on the front lines every day, fighting for basic things like a living wage, and affordable health care. You see it in every industry--and one of the starkest contrasts is in the retail food industry.

Grocery workers are a vital part of the community. They are our neighbors, our friends, and our families. They put dinner on the table, in every community across the country. They've made their companies some of the most successful in the country with their hard work--and their CEOs some of the richest--and those workers deserve respect.

But as I mentioned in my post yesterday, workers aren't getting the respect that they've worked so hard for. A Fortune 50 company like Kroger, a company that did $60 billion in sales last year, should be able to provide health insurance coverage for its employees. But Kroger, like many companies today, seems reluctant to give back to communities and workers.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members George Smith and Monique Wilkerson, of Local 204 in North Carolina, had a few words to say about the subject of corporate responsibility.

Do you think Kroger has any responsibility to their workers or to the community?

George: I absolutely do. I mean, when your company is making billions in sales, how are you going to live with depriving your workers' families of basic necessities? I think grocery companies like Kroger owe their workers affordable health care, at the very least. These are not high-paying jobs, so the health care is a big part of why we work here.

Monique: Kroger is such a big company, and they have so much. How can they deny us something so little? It's just pennies to them, but affordable health care means so much to me and my family.

George: Kroger and other companies got big because the community shops there. And the community also works there. If workers aren't able to make ends meet, then the community isn't going to thrive.

Do you see a general trend in the grocery industry of less corporate responsibility?

Monique: It's happening all over. More part-time jobs that pay less, with terrible hours. I have a little boy at home, and I have to work these overnight shifts, and I don't make much. And it's not just me--it's everywhere. More jobs now, they just pay you as little as they can get away with. They don't care about the community anymore.

George: The way I see it, this is the United States of America, right? That means we're all in this together. But it seems lately, big companies like Kroger don't believe that. They think they're above everybody else, that they can get rich while everybody else gets nothing. I'm glad the unions still believe we're all in this together, all Americans. That's what this fight is all about, here in North Carolina and all across the country.

Amber Sparks: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:42 AM, Sep 22, 2006 in Employment | Labor | Progressive Agenda | Wal-Mart | activists
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