Grocery Chains and Bush’s Ownership Society

There are too many U.S. grocery chain stores, said George Whalin, head of Retail Management Consultants, in The Sacramento Bee of June 7. Call it overcapacity in the grocery industry.

A few new owners of the Albertsons grocery chain are responding accordingly. In early June, three companies purchased Albertsons Inc. for the tidy sum of $17 billion.

One of the trio, Cerberus Partners, an investment firm based in New York, partnered with the commercial real estate firm of Kimco Realty Corp. To halt a fall in profits for Albertsons during the past four years, 100 of its stores nationwide will be closing, 37 of which are located in Northern California.

These “under-performing stores” did not bring an acceptable return on investment to owners, according to Albertsons spokeswoman Quyen Ha. And the consequences for Albertsons employees?

How many of them will become jobless is not yet known. Contrast their bitter fate with that of Larry Johnston, CEO of Albertsons.

Mr. Johnston earned about $60 million as Albertsons shareholders lost around $900 million between 2000 and 2003, said Graef Crystal, a business professor at UC Berkeley, in a report on KTVB NewsChannel 7, the NBC station in Boise, Idaho on July 8, 2003. Nice work if you can get it.

Albertsons competes for profits and market share in the grocery industry with discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc., owned by the Walton family of multi-billionaires. Their wealth is built on the backs of Wal-Mart’s hourly work force, which earns lower wages than unionized Albertsons workers.

As the good Marxists in corporate America know, low wages plus high productivity boost profit rates. Driven thusly, grocery companies compete to undersell their rivals and put them out of business.

Wal-Mart is pursuing this strategy with a vengeance in California. In early 2006, Kroger-owned Ralphs fell to the Wal-Mart discount rout, departing the Sacramento area, having shut down eight of its stores in the capital region.

Two years earlier, unionized Southern California grocery workers endured a five-month strike and lockout, trying to prevent Safeway-owned Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons from making deep cuts to employees’ health benefits and hourly wages. On one hand, the employers did not get all of the cuts they wanted at the end of the five months.

On the other hand, new-hire grocery workers in the south state were forced to labor for lower wages and fork out higher co-pays for their health benefits. The grocery chains had sought such cuts due to competition from Wal-Mart.

It is unclear how many Albertsons workers will be fired as a result of the upcoming store closures. What is clear is that overcapacity runs a red line through the U.S. economy, from airlines to cars, and more.

Currently, the shake-out underway in the marketplace of U.S. grocery chains is falling hard on wage earners. They are living the lives of pay cuts and layoffs under President George W. Bush’s “Ownership Society.”

National health care would provide a cushion for the human harm created by overcapacity in the U.S. economy. It is time to think and act outside the box of the usual labor union-company agreements fueled by market share and profits.

SETH SANDRONSKY is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at ssandron@hotmail.com




More articles by:

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring