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Investigation Launched into Ralphs' Hiring Practices

LOS ANGELES - Federal prosecutors are looking into allegations that Ralphs managers knowingly let employees locked out during the retailer's months-long labor dispute work using false identities and Social Security numbers, the chain's parent company has revealed, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has begun investigating and a grand jury has convened to consider whether the charges, if proved true, constitute violations of criminal statutes, Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. announced in a document filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said in the filing that it's cooperating with the probe.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union first raised such charges in a January lawsuit. Ralphs responded at the time that the allegations were without merit and that such conduct went against company policy.

Ralphs locked out its workers Oct. 11, after Southern California grocery employees voted to go on strike against Safeway, Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions chains. At that time Ralphs, Safeway, and Albertsons, Inc. were engaged in collective bargaining with the UFCW, and Ralphs brought in replacement employees.

The allegations are also included in a claim filed against Ralphs with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the company's conduct during the lockout was illegal, Kroger said. The NLRB has not yet ruled on the matter.
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