Kroger workers threaten to strike - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Kroger workers threaten to strike

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By Eric Flack

(LOUISVILLE) -- A national grocery chain could be facing a major strike in Louisville. Kroger is preparing for the possibility that around 800 workers at its Louisville distribution center will walk off the job in the coming days. And that could mean some empty shelves at your local store. WAVE 3 investigator Eric Flack has the latest.

A bitter dispute between Union workers and Kroger management is close to boiling over. 

"I think the community should be ashamed of Kroger right now," said Union President Fred Zuckerman.

The grocery giant is selling off its warehouse operations on Nelson Miller Parkway to two privately owned companies in an effort to boost efficiency.

The transportation changeover happened Thursday morning. That means drivers like John Kestler are no longer protected by the collective bargaining agreement the union negotiated with Kroger less than two years ago.

Kestler is certain that a loss of pay and benefits will follow. "Eventually our benefits will be cut," he said. "They've done it everywhere else."

This is the seventh regional distribution center that Kroger has outsourced, and Zuckernman says the transition has been disastrous for union workers everywhere else.

Kroger says that's not true. Nevertheless, Zuckerman now calls the chances of a strike: likely. "It's an economic strike," he said. "It's meant to hurt the company."

Kroger spokesman Tim McGurk says the only thing that's going to change for warehouse workers is the name on their paycheck.

But attempts to avoid a strike have been rejected. "Kroger has made guarantee offers to the union that ensured wages stay the same, benefits stayed the same, retirement stayed the same. We're not sure why they are turning it down."

Kroger management has been circulating flyers for replacement workers, even housing some out-of-town hires in local motels so the strike doesn't shut down operations.

But they admit there could be temporary shortages of some items should the strike happen.

John Kestler says the strike will happen. "I'm tired of getting cheated by Kroger. It's time. It's time to do it."

The Teamsters have opened negotiations with the new transportation company, Transervice Logistics. But Zuckerman says he is looking for a deal better than the one the Union had with Kroger, because he feels the workers have now lost job security.

It is unclear how long, or how hard the Union will work to try to reach an agreement before a strike is ordered, but Zuckerman said a walkout could come at any time.

Online Reporter: Eric Flack

Online Producer: Michael Dever

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