Groups Urge Boycott of Metro Detroit Krogers

DETROIT -- A coalition of union and community leaders is asking consumers here to boycott Kroger stores, following the chain's announcement that it was transferring its perishable food operations from a Livonia, Mich., distribution warehouse to a facility in Ohio, according to local reports.

The Livonia warehouse, which is owned by Kroger, is managed and staffed by Supervalu's Advantage Logistics division. Kroger has used the Advantage Logistics distribution center in Livonia since it was built in 1950.

A spokesperson from the Minneapolis-based Supervalu was quoted as saying it was uncertain how many local jobs would be lost as a result of the move, although local labor leaders estimate that 150 to 250 of the 500 jobs at the warehouse could be cut as part of the transition.

A Kroger spokeswoman said the company is not forsaking the state, but is instead "very committed to the Michigan area," in light of some 1,800 new Michigan employees hired by the Cincinnati-based chain in recent years.

But the Kroger spokeswoman told a local newspaper the Livonia warehouse is outdated and the company would be able to save money by relocating its perishable foods distribution to a 760,000-square-foot distribution center in Delaware, Ohio, which opened in 2003.

While Supervalu said no job cuts have yet been made at the warehouse, union officials contend that all jobs at the plant could disappear by the time the union's contract with Supervalu expires in 2008.

Kroger said it has no immediate plans to move other operations from the warehouse, which will continue to serve as the distribution center for nonperishables.

The Detroit News reported that Kroger will begin interviewing for jobs at the Delaware, Ohio warehouse at the end of this month and has advertised available positions that pay $11.50 to $17.50 -- rates Teamster officials say are sub-standard, and well under the $20-per-hour salary workers earn in Livonia. Workers at the Ohio plant are represented by the United Industrial Workers Union.

State Rep. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, the Rev. Charles Williams II of the Mary Church Terrell Council for Community Empowerment, and Julie Barton of Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice voiced support for the boycott of Kroger stores.

As part of the campaign, coalition workers were planning to distribute handbills titled, "Don't let the Kroger Ogre Kill Michigan Jobs" at 10 Detroit area Kroger stores, as well as at the Detroit Tigers game.
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