COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kroger and the union representing its employees will head back to the bargaining table next week as discussions of a possible strike loom.
At the center of the negotiations between Kroger and its employees are wages.
"We deserve more money than the pennies they are offering. We went from heroes to zeros. Every store is short-handed, and every employee is stressed, overworked, and underappreciated, and now we are disappointed that the company thinks we are no worth more," wrote a Kroger employee to 10TV.
Kroger said the company’s most recent contract contained significant investments in associate wages, proposing an investment of more than $120 million in new wages over the next three years.
But Kroger employees who spoke or emailed to 10TV say the public is not getting the full story.
"I promise you that starting pay that they posted is an out-and-out lie. I have been with Kroger for over 23 years. I'm just at $18 an hour," said one employee in an email.
At issue is Kroger's press release dated September 19 that said "a cashier's current wage is $17.10 an hour."
10TV spoke to a current Kroger employee who asked we not identify him out of fear he said of getting fired. The employee said they make $15 an hour and they have been with the company for almost four years. The employee added that if the union voted yes on the contract, they would only make $15.75 an hour.
The employee brought his pay stub that backed up their hourly wage.
Kroger later clarified in an email that the $17.10 figure given in the previous release was the average salary for a full-time cashier, not the starting wage or what every cashier is currently making.
Kroger has offered .65 cent raises in 2022, .50 cent raises in 2023 and .65 cents raises in 2024 under its new contract.
The grocer says "It’s important to note that our total compensation package also includes a pension for our associates when they retire. Something that only 7% of US businesses still offer. "
The company says it's the best and last offer and so far, neither side has returned to the bargaining table.
On Wednesday, the union sent an email telling its members that its continuing efforts to bring Kroger back to the bargaining table.
"While the membership has voted to authorize a strike, a strike has not been called at this time-though we are preparing for any necessary action in the next several weeks."
Meanwhile, Kroger employees say the grocer is already preparing for a possible strike by placing ads for temporary workers who they say are being offered more money per hour.
When it comes to health insurance, employees would pay $2,002 a year, or $38.50 a week. That would increased to $41.50 a week/$2,158 a year in 2025. The company said that is a $1 or $2 increase over what employees pay now.
In the event of a strike, Kroger said its stores will remain open and they are working on a contingency plan on how to do that.
Kroger has released full details of its offer to the union here.
Kroger and the union are scheduled to meet Sept. 27.