Stop Kroger the ogre

“Stop Kroger the ogre” was the chant of nearly 2,000 Teamster members and their supporters, led by International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James Hoffa, at a rally at the Kroger warehouse in Livonia, Mich., Aug. 6.

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, had a net profit of nearly $1 billion in 2005. The company plans to shut down its Michigan warehouse and lay off 250 workers, with another 250 slated for layoff in 2008. It will move the operation to another location in Ohio that pays $4 an hour less with few benefits.

The union has formed a coalition with several community groups to boycott Kroger.

At the rally, many workers turned in their Kroger discount cards, and Larry Brennan, IBT Local 337 president, cut them in half.

Unite Here International Vice President Joe Doherty pledged support of his union and the Change to Win federation, and Donald Boggs, retired president of the 350,000-member Metropolitan AFL-CIO, pledged his federation’s support.

Bob Ficano, Wayne County executive, was one of several state and local elected officials who offered their backing.

Ficano contrasted Kroger with companies that have recently moved to the Detroit area, creating 3,000 new jobs. “This area has the most highly skilled, most productive workers in the country,” said Ficano, challenging the corporate national media who are constantly trashing the Detroit area because of the better wages of auto and other unionized workers and because Detroit is an 80 percent African American city.

The rally started with the singing of the national anthem by Karen Vanessa-Ford Martin, whose husband is a Kroger worker.

— Jim Gallo