In West Virginia, the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation (ACT) has stepped up its criticism of Kroger grocery stores for not committing to hiring local union workers on construction projects. Kroger currently operates 41 stores in the West Virginia region and plans on spending $200 million annually for the next half decade to make improvements to their stores across the country. While some union electrical and mechanical workers are currently on Kroger projects, most construction workers are being brought in from out of state.
As ACT Executive Director Steve White told the West Virginia Gazette, going out of state means lost jobs for the area, plain and simple:
“When a factory closes down, people understand the devastation of job losses for workers and their families,” White said. “But when a construction project goes to imported workers, a lot of people don’t realize that has the same devastation to local construction workers and their families — lost jobs. That is how we make our living. We have had some discussions with Kroger aimed at trying to find ways to get more local bidders and workers on their projects. The talks were positive, but we haven’t really got anywhere yet,” White said.
The ACT has taken their fight to the people, asking Kroger customers to sign letters of support for local workers. These letters are being sent to the President of Kroger. Bert McDermitt Jr., organizing coordinator for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), explained the group’s cause:
We wanted to find out if local communities agreed with us. So one evening, about three weeks ago, we visited 39 stores.
During a two-hour period, we got 2,000 cards signed supporting us. Since then, we’ve gone to our local membership and now we have 8,000 cards signed.
We are looking to make another visit to those stores before Christmas. We have forwarded the cards already signed to Kroger’s president.
That did result in a meeting with company officials. But at this time, no commitment has been made to the local workers and the local contractors.