Media that empowers working people – that's how we build a More Perfect Union.

Don't Miss a Video!

Access our exclusive reporting and rapid response actions directly in your inbox, so you don’t miss a beat in the fight for working people nationwide.

Be a part of a community backing up independent journalism with action.

Ideas

Have a story to tell or idea to share?
Email [email protected]
© 2021 More Perfect Union Action

Together we can build power for working people.

We’re asking questions that really matter, and telling the stories of people who really need to be seen and heard.

You can support our work by donating today.

Amount

Make It Monthly

Don't Miss a Video!

Access our exclusive reporting and rapid response actions directly in your inbox, so you don’t miss a beat in the fight for working people nationwide.

Be a part of a community backing up independent journalism with action.

Exclusive: Leaked Memo Reveals Kroger Executives Knew For Years That Most Workers Live In Poverty

“I literally work at a grocery store and can't afford to eat regularly.”

By Jordan Zakarin

An explosive new document obtained by More Perfect Union reveals that supermarket giant Kroger has long been aware that its workers can’t afford basic necessities and struggle to survive.

The internal presentation, titled “State of the Associate” and marked “confidential,” warned Kroger executives in 2018 that hundreds of thousands of employees live in poverty and rely on food stamps and other public aid as a result of the company’s low pay.

“Most employees are considered to be living in poverty and need State Aid as in food stamps, free school lunch, etc. just to get by,” one slide warned.

The presentation is peppered with quotes from unnamed employees that foretell the internal labor uprising that would come a few years later. “Something is wrong when the people who are actually making this company profitable are the ones deepest in poverty,” said one employee quoted from an internal survey. “I literally work at a grocery store and can’t afford to eat regularly. In short, pay us what we are worth; we know you can afford it.”

With $4 billion in projected profits in 2021, Kroger is America’s largest grocery chain, overseeing 16 brands including Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Fred Meyer. CEO Rodney McMullen made $22 million in 2020, more than 900 times as much as the median worker. Kroger has one of the largest CEO-worker pay gaps of any major U.S. company.

Kroger representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

The presentation found that at least 1 in 5 Kroger associates were on food stamps, including at least 25% of “very loyal” associates who frequently also shop at Kroger stores. It said low wages were cited by 27% of workers who quit the company.

The document offered a graph of the federal poverty line and the hourly wages that would qualify workers for food stamps and Medicaid. It also noted that in Ohio, where Kroger is based, a worker needed to earn $15/hour to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment. The presentation further noted that in 2016, Kroger received $20 million in tax incentives from the state of Ohio.

The document includes an internal analysis which found the stores that increased wages also had better employee retention and less turnover.

It quoted another unnamed worker who rebuked Kroger’s lack of pay hikes for long-time workers: “A pay increase that’s more than 25 cents a year, inflation is driving costs up and pay scale isn’t keeping up. People 10 years with the company on food stamps doesn’t seem right.”

Four years later, in late 2021, salary data from Payscale.com indicated that the average pay for a Kroger on-site employee is $12.11. Earlier in the year, Kroger said that it was lifting its average wage to $16, but did not indicate whether that number was skewed by salaries earned by white collar employees. Many states where Kroger operates have raised their minimum wages.

On Wednesday, about 8,700 employees of the Kroger-owned King Soopers grocery chain in Colorado launched a three-week strike to demand better wages and benefits. 

The company’s “last, best, and final” contract offer to UFCW Local 7, the union representing the workers in Colorado, included a starting wage of $16 an hour, just 13 cents above the minimum wage in Denver. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, renting a two-bedroom apartment on a single full-time job requires a $27.50 an hour wage. In the Denver metropolitan area, that figure jumps to $30.87 and up to $33.15 in Boulder.

The Kroger source who supplied the 2018 presentation indicated that much of the company’s focus was on keeping wages down while burnishing the company’s reputation. In 2018, Kroger launched its Zero Hunger Zero Waste campaign, which seeks to help low-income customers attain government assistance, offers grants to nonprofits, and run food drives in the local community. 

A survey released this week by the Economic Roundtable indicated that three-quarters of Kroger employees are food insecure and that 14% of the chain’s workforce experienced homelessness in the past year.

In a section of the 2018 report titled “Turning Our Insights Into a Leadership Call to Action,” executives are advised to recruit and train diverse associates, but also to “continue to develop automation, leveraging technology at store level.”

Last year, Kroger embarked on a massive project to build robot-staffed warehouses for online orders, with each warehouse costing at least $55 million. It also launched a drone delivery service.

The Latest

EXCLUSIVE: Major Health Insurer Pressures Employees To Lobby Against California’s Single-Payer Bill
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
“Treated Like Slaves:” Factory Workers Who Make Oreos & Chips Ahoy Tell All
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Joe Biden Promised to Expunge Marijuana Convictions. Why Hasn’t He?
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Baskin Robbins Cake Makers Expose Brutal Working Conditions
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
McDonald’s and Staples Are Running A Fake Pay Rate Scam
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Debt-Based License Suspensions Criminalize Poverty
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
8,500 Kroger Workers Strike for Their Lives
Read More
Exclusive: Leaked Memo Reveals Kroger Executives Knew For Years That Most Workers Live In Poverty
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Google Engineers Fired For Union Organizing Reveal the Dark Side of the Tech Giant
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Chicago Amazon Workers Lead First-Ever Multi-Warehouse Walkouts
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Red Lobster Workers Say They’re Forced to Work Sick Through Pandemic
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Arizona Starbucks Workers EXPOSE Union-Busting Tactics
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Can’t Cancel Your Subscription? Call the FTC
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Republicans Are Rigging A Decade of Elections
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
We Found The REAL Homer Simpsons Of Today
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Warrior Met Coal Miners Spend Christmas On Strike
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Amazon Is Covering Up Worker Deaths
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Biden Could Decriminalize Marijuana Immediately
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Know Your Rights: The Worker Training Video Your Boss Doesn’t Want You To See
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Greedy Kellogg’s CEO Caught On Tape Bragging About Working Employees To The Bone
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Medicare Premiums Will Skyrocket After Approval of Unproven $56k Drug
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Kellogg’s Strike Is Working: Kellogg’s Feels the Pain, While Workers Are Emboldened
Read More
Amazon Worker Killed In Deadly Tornado Wasn’t Allowed to Leave the Warehouse
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
What’s Really Driving The Supply Chain Crisis?
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Moderna’s Greed Is Causing A Global Vaccine Shortage
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
EXCLUSIVE: Starbucks Whistleblower Fired After Revealing Union-Busting Plans
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
BREAKING: Striking Kellogg’s Workers Bravely Reject Contract Offer
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Media Is Ignoring An Economic Boom For Workers
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Wall Street Buying Mobile Home Parks?
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Casino Workers Were Left Out Of Clean Air Laws
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Orlando Airport Workers Are Fighting Back Against Overwork And Underpayment
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Inflation Explained: The Real Reason Prices Are Going Up
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Largest Strike in America: Columbia Student Workers Demand a Fair Contract
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How A Multi-Billion Dollar Bank Merger Could Devastate This Connecticut City
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
3 Ways Biden Can Lower Drug Prices Immediately
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
PetSmart Workers Expose Horrifying Conditions For Workers & Pets
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Cori Bush And Democrats Finalizing A Plan To Lower Insulin Costs
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Kaiser Health Care Workers Are Ready To Strike
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
‘Everything About Walmart Is a Lie’: Walmart Workers Demand $15 Minimum Wage
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Untold History: How America Got (And Lost) Universal Child Care
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Google Threatens Water Supply of Drought-Stricken Town
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
NYC Taxi Drivers Won The Debt Relief They Hungered For
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
HelloFresh Workers Expose Horrific Working Conditions
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Fight To Democratize The UAW
Read More
More Perfect Union’s Striketober Coverage
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Cheer-Opoly That Needs Government Regulation
Read More
POLL: The Voters Who Democrats Covet Are Cheering On The Strike Wave
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Starbucks Spreads Anti-Union Lies In Forced Employee Meetings
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Dollar General Is Illegally Union-Busting
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Most Consequential Election You’ve Never Heard Of
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Elizabeth Warren Debunks Republicans’ Lies On Taxes
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
NYC Taxi Drivers Hunger Strike For Debt Relief
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Millionaire Developers Plot To Overturn India Walton’s Election in Buffalo
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Striking Kellogg’s Workers Expose Company’s Lies
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Most Pro-Labor President? Here’s What Joe Biden Must Do
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
This Powerful Democrat Is Gutting Biden’s Paid Family Leave Program
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
SCOOP: Dollar General Caught Union Busting
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Here’s Why 10,000 John Deere Workers Are on Strike
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Burn The Forest To Save It, Firefighters Argue
Read More
10,000 John Deere Workers Are Officially On Strike
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Ohio’s New Election Maps Are So Rigged Even the GOP Governor Says They’re Illegal
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
CVS Workers Refuse To Settle For Nickels And Dimes
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Working 120 Days Straight: Kellogg’s Workers Go on Strike to Protest Brutal Conditions
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Netflix and Amazon Film Crews Expose Horrific Conditions On Set
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Inside Scoop On The Campaign To Primary Kyrsten Sinema
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Amazon Worker Died After Being Assigned To COVID Testing Team
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Voters Rage At Rep. Scott Peters For Selling Out On Drug Prices
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
DeJoy Slows Down USPS Mail Service To Speed Up Privatization
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
60,000 Hollywood Crew Workers Gear Up For First-Ever Strike
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Real Reason Grocery Prices Are Skyrocketing
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Starbucks Tries To Crush Historic Union Drive In Buffalo
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Exclusive: Tesla Employee Speaks Out On Rampant Racism At The Company
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Spotify Is Killing The Music Industry
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Exclusive: Racist Slurs & Toxic Culture At Tesla
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Meet The Democrat Helping To Destroy The Postal Service
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Apple Is Behind One Of The Largest Thefts In History
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Iowa City Defeated Grubhub
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
A Frito-Lay Worker Was Electrocuted, Denied Medical Care & Stalked by Company Agents
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Fort Worth Activists Defeated the Dollar Store Invasion
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Forced to Work 12 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week: The Dark Side of Frito-Lay
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The NRA You’ve Never Heard Of Is Blocking a $15 Minimum Wage
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How NYU Grad Students Won A Major Labor Fight On Their Campus
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
These Drivers Could Defeat Uber & Lyft With Their Own App
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
For Fast-Food Workers, the Pandemic Made a Bad Situation Worse. Now They’re Fighting Back.
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
A Modern Day Sweatshop: The Tesla Factory Secrets Elon Musk Doesn’t Want You To Know
Read More
Drivers Protest Uber & Lyft
Gig Workers Take On Big Tech in Massachusetts
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Striking Alabama Coal Miners Put Their Lives on the Line
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Fired By Elon Musk for Unionizing at Tesla
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Boosts Republican Assault on Democracy
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Real Deal: Mergers Fuel Job Losses
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Republicans Wage War to Deny More Than 800,000 Disabled and Elderly Americans Home Care
Read More
New Poll: Majority of Voters Support the PRO Act and the For the People Act
Read More
Poll Finds Republicans Support Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Dirty Secret Behind Dollar General’s Low Prices
Read More
Majority of Trump Voters & 65% of Americans Support Medicare Expansion
Read More
Workers rally for the PRO Act.
NEW POLL: Bipartisan Support for PRO Act in Arizona, Virginia and Other Key States
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
TV Networks Caught Airing Fake “Interviews” Scripted By Major Corporate Lobby
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
BREAKING: New Details Bolster Likelihood NLRB Will Overturn Amazon Union Election
Read More
Exclusive: Emails Show Amazon Pressured USPS To Install Illegal Dropbox During Union Election
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
NEW REPORT: Amazon’s Most Egregious Illegal Action To Bust The Union Organizing Effort
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The Little-Known History of the Filibuster: Corporate America’s Favorite Legislative Tool
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
EXPOSED: The Major Corporations Funding Voter Suppression Efforts in Georgia
Read More
Strike Tracker: Which Elected Officials Are Speaking Out For Workers?
Read More