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Rally Over Kroger Jobs Draws Hundreds

Joe Staniunas

A dispute over 74 jobs at a Kroger supermarket in Tidewater prompted a protest in Roanoke by hundreds of union workers Tuesday afternoon.

Across the street from Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic office, Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers put up two lines of bright yellow tee shirts, one for every job they say is at risk at a Norfolk store. The company recently bought eight Farm Fresh supermarkets in Hampton Roads and plans to turn them into Krogers.

One is across from an existing Kroger, and those workers, like self-checkout cashier Cheryl Brown, worry that the store will be shut down, and they’ll be shut out of a job.  “People that worked previously for Farm Fresh that got to stay on with Kroger, they’re the ones that got our jobs," Brown said Tuesday. "They’re the ones coming across the street telling us 'you’re not going over there, they don’t want you over there.' They don’t want union over there.”

Credit Joe Staniunas
Members of UFCW Local 400 took shopping carts with bags of petitions to the Kroger regional offices in Roanoke to protest possible layoffs at a store in Hampton Roads.

Another union worker, florist Majorie Mathena, said these 74 people are a family and they want to stay together.  “I think they know what is going to happen and we want an answer. And our question is we all want to go in one store. We are one family. We have been there all this time, more than 20 years,” Mathena said.

As part of the rally, union members rolled five shopping carts with bags of petitions across the road to the Kroger building. Kroger declined a request for an interview, but in a statement it said the union has the right to rally, but the most productive thing it can do is to work with the company to address its concerns.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.