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Albertsons and Kroger CEOs questioned by Senate over proposed merger

Overhead view of a Senate Committee on the Judiciary of the chamber. Five men are seated with their backs to the camera, in front of the Senators' hemicycle.
Senators raised concerns over a proposed $25 billion merger between supermarket behemoths Kroger and Albertsons at a hearing.

Workers’ advocates and politicians are raising concerns over a proposed $25 billion merger between supermarket behemoths Kroger and Albertsons.

Albertsons is one of the top five Idaho employers, with 5,000 local workers, while Kroger employs 3,000 people in the state.

At a committee hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, senators questioned Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen and Albertson CEO Vivek Sankaran about the proposed merger, examining whether the grocers’ plan would lead to a monopoly.

“The transaction will result in less competition, which will be bad for consumers,” said Sumit Sharma, a competition and antitrust researcher at the hearing.

But the CEOs argued the merger was necessary to compete with Walmart, which owns the largest grocery market share in the country.

“This merger will give us the flexibility, national footprint and digital capabilities to compete more effectively,” McMullen said.

Sen. Mike Lee, the top Republican on the panel, also voiced skepticism over the companies’ plan to increase customer data collection as well as their commitment to environmental, social and governance efforts.

“Do Americans really need a grocery store chain with wealthier owners who collect more of their personal data and push their woke agenda even more?” he asked.

Ahead of the hearing, members of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union opposed the merger at a press conference.

Judy Wood, an Albertsons employee from Southern California, said she feared the purchase would also lead to layoffs.

“Just as people are starting to make themselves right after economic downturns in the pandemic, Kroger and Albertsons are here once again, pulling the rug out from underneath us,” she said.

“The stores will have the ability to raise prices without consequence because competition between stores will no longer exist. What will happen to working families when they can't afford to pay Kroger's higher prices?” she said.

“We are not talking about luxury cars or expensive clothing here, we are talking about food,” Wood added.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.