Workers Expose Mass Wage Theft at Kroger’s
The grocery giant is facing four class action lawsuits in twelve states for delaying paychecks and double charging for premiums.
Kathy Coy: It was, um, the first pay period of October, and I didn’t get a paycheck. Nothing directly deposited into my bank <laugh>. And I thought that’s that’s odd.
[News clip]: Kroger employees say they’ve been paid late for weeks
[News clip]: A payroll computer glitch, they’re telling us
[News clip]: A new payroll software is cheating them out of their hard earned money
[News clip]: When the money comes, it doesn’t come in full
Sean Embly: At the beginning, it felt like this was maybe a one-week, one-payroll issue and it was going to get corrected. But now we’re sitting here about six months later and we’re still dealing with payroll issues.
Kroger is facing 4 class action lawsuits from workers in at least 12 states for failing to pay its workers.
Latonya Davis: It feels as though you’re working for a sweatshop and nobody cares. They don’t fix the problem. They make it look like you’re the problem.
Kathy Coy: I show up everyday, but yet they can’t pay me. I just felt really bad.
In October 2022, Kroger announced it would acquire fellow grocery giant Albertsons in a $25 billion deal.
Sean Embly: It would make Kroger one of the biggest retailers in the United States. It’d give them over 30% of the market share in the grocery industry. We should be asking ourselves, is this the type of company that as customers we wanna be putting our trust in to be able to deliver food for our family to eat?
Latonya Davis: That paycheck was missing from October 6th until maybe a couple days before Christmas. And at the time when it happened, Thanksgiving was right around the corner. Do you think they asked me about, oh um, do you need, do, do you need something Thanksgiving, you need a Turkey, some stuffing, a gallon of milk? Nope, nothing.
Sean Embly: It’s particularly bad for Kroger workers to miss a paycheck because many of the workers are struggling to survive.
Internal Kroger documents show 1 in 5 of its store associates were on government assistance in 2017.
Latonya Davis: My income from Kroger is very important because I have little ones. I am the bread winner of this family.
Sean Embly: There was a study published by the economic round table. And some of the things that came out in that study was, 78% of Kroger workers were dealing with food insecurity. So when you put it into that perspective, missing a paycheck or two is catastrophic.
Latonya Davis: It made me feel less than a mother because as a mother I was supposed to be the one to provide. You can’t provide if there ain’t nothing there to provide … It was frustrating. It was hard. It is time for Kroger to wake up because … if it ain’t for us little people, Kroger can’t make no money.
Kathy Coy: Here’s my apron, <laugh>, and on the inside of the apron is the, is the Kroger promise that we’re supposed to memorize. It says, because our purpose is to feed the human spirit. We promise everyone friendly and caring, everything fresh, uplift in every way, and improve every day.
Videographer: Do you think they live up to that?
Kathy Coy: Oh, no. <laugh>, they know it’s <laugh>. No, I don’t think they do. <laugh>. I started to really look at my pay stub and I noticed that I usually get $20 a week taken out, as a health copay. I noticed it was 40, so they had doubled it. Like for instance, this is this week that I haven’t put in there yet, and I just, I just checked it and sure enough they have, they have double charged me again for the health copay, 40 instead of 20. The fact that I’m getting closer to retirement, and I don’t want to walk away from this job without being fully paid for all the work that I’ve done. It feels very violating. I feel it goes beyond, just the actual money they owe me. I feel all the stress, I don’t know, it just caused a lot of stress in my life.
Sean Embly: It’s really the, the humanity that I think Kroger is lacking by not making this their number one priority. We know that they have devoted a ton of resources to to try and merge with one of their biggest competitors, Albertsons.
[News Clip]: Kroger plants to buy Albertsons for $24 billion, potentially creating a grocery empire.
Kathy Coy: QFC, when I started, was its own family owned store. Um, and then Kroger took it over. When it was mainly, uh, family run, we would have things like, uh, a full Thanksgiving in our break room for Thanksgiving. We would get gift cards for like a hundred dollars for Christmas. And then over the years, um, when Kroger bought it, it just became less and less to the point where, now even to get a free, quote free Turkey, we have to buy $25 worth of groceries.
Latonya Davis: Are you just gonna keep being big, big, big and just let everything else go underneath the cover? Because I have seen that for super giant stores, they get bigger and bigger and bigger and look good in the public eye, but they forget about the stuff they actually gotta deal with.
Sean Embly: It’s such a fundamental thing of getting paid, right? We all deserve to get paid, we all have a right to get paid for the work that we do, I think that’s an important discussion. I think it’s important to think about, the company who’s already really big, getting bigger and how difficult they, it’s gonna be for them to run their company if they’re already having trouble simply paying their workers.
Kathy Coy: I wish they would understand to be in our shoes, that, that we all work super, super hard. We all do our best every day for them.
Kathy and Latonya ultimately received their missing paychecks, between 1 and 2 months late. Kathy continued to deal with incorrect deductions until she retired in April 2023.
Kathy Coy: The money is really not the issue is, you know, it’s, it’s the fact that, um, the situation has happened and no one’s really wanted to take care of it or take responsibility for it.
Latonya Davis: If you go to work, you are entitled to an honest paycheck and if you work and you don’t get that paycheck, your right has been violated. It was a slap in the face coming from my company that I work for because they weren’t willing to help me when I helped them. But now my question is with Kroger: the table has flipped, Kroger, your employees need help. What do you do?