West Seattle-residing U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal called a media briefing in Junction Plaza Park this afternoon to announce she’s asking the Federal Trade Commission to “closely investigate” the proposed Albertsons-Kroger grocery merger. The briefing location was chosen for being in line of sight to QFC (Kroger-owned) and Safeway (Albertsons-owned) stores.
Among those joining her was Faye Guenther, head of the regional union that represents grocery workers, UFCW 3000. Here’s our video the entire 18-minute announcement and Q/A:
Rep. Jayapal opened by saying she and three other U.S. House members had moments earlier sent a letter to the chair of the FTC to request the investigation – you can see the letter here. She believes the $24.6 billion dollar merger would have “widespread and dangerous implications across the country,” affecting everything from prices to jobs. This is of extra interest to her as she’s been serving as vice chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. Guenther said she hopes to testify at a hearing early next month in Washington, D.C.; “We want workers to be heard.” One of those workers, Naomi Oligario, said she’s a Safeway employee with 37 years of experience but almost lost her job in the Safeway-Albertsons merger. She said her biggest fear is that if the merger goes through, “they’re going to close stores again.” Shaun Scott of the Statewide Anti-Poverty Network said that would exacerbate food insecurity.
As Jayapal noted at one point, the merger also is under scrutiny from Washington state government; Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued to stop a “special dividend” from going out to Albertsons stockholders pre-merger.