Kroger employees fight for healthcare, other benefits

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Kroger employees fight for their healthcare in a negotiations battle with the major grocery store chain.

In front of the Beckley Kroger off Eisenhower Drive were dozens of employees from different locations, all there to support one common cause.

“We’ve all got one thing in common: we’ve got to have our health care,” said negotiations team member Mark Cordle.

At the end of August, a contract between Kroger and UFCW Local 400 came to an end. Without an extension, Kroger threatens benefits employees aren’t ready to give up.

“Kroger wants to raise the out-of-pocket cost of the members on their healthcare while cutting benefits at the same time during a pandemic,” said union representative Andrew Keeney. “They want to pick and choose who they give their raises to and they want to destroy our seniority rights, which is the hallmark of any union contract.”

Union members fight back, taking to the streets every week until they come to an agreement.

“Give us a contract where the healthcare benefits remain the same and everybody gets a fair raise and leave our seniority rights alone,” said Keeney.

Kroger employees were given a hero bonus near the beginning of the pandemic but haven’t seen a bonus since. Although the grocery store giant seems to be thriving amid COVID-19, employees say their paychecks don’t show that success.

“When the president of the company got millions of dollars in bonuses alone…it makes me feel pretty bad because I didn’t see the president of the company bagging any groceries or cutting any meat or pushing any buggies,” said Cordle.

Allison McGee, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic released the following statement:

“The company and union have signed a contract extension through October 17 which gives the parties additional time to continue discussions. It’s our hope that we reach an agreement at the bargaining table that continues to reward and recognize Kroger Mid-Atlantic’s hard-working team of associates. We believe associates are entitled to good pay, affordable health care and a pension benefit when they retire. In fact, The Kroger Company is investing nearly $1 billion to secure a pension benefit for 33,000 Kroger associates, including many of our West Virginia associates. We value the work and contributions of every associate and will continue to have meaningful discussions that benefit all associates.”

Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.