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Have thoughts on the Albertsons-Kroger merger? Nevada AG wants to know

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford is considering action to address a proposed merger between two grocery store giants in the state by soliciting public opinion on how the transaction could affect the state’s consumers.

Albertsons and Kroger, operating on the Smith’s, Albertsons and Safeway brands in Nevada, announced the $24.6 billion merger agreement in October 2022. The two companies have said they want to close the deal by early 2024.

About 15 states are investigating the merger’s potential impact, the attorney general’s office said at the first of a series of listening sessions. Meanwhile other state officials are speaking up: secretaries of state in seven states, including neighboring Arizona, asked the Federal Trade Commission to block the acquisition in an Aug. 16 letter.

Ford told Tuesday’s crowd of about a dozen Vegas-area residents that his office was holding the discussions to determine what kind of step his office should take, if any. The attorney general has the authority to review the proposed merger to monitor consumer protection and competitiveness in the marketplace.

Ford’s office could join with other state attorneys general in a lawsuit to block the grocery merger or find other negotiation points with the companies to protect workers and consumers in Nevada, similar to actions his office took during the T-Mobile-Sprint merger in 2019.

He said his office didn’t join a lawsuit to block the telecommunications merger and instead negotiated a settlement that addressed keeping existing workers in the state, among other agreements.

“We did not join in that lawsuit because we were able to protect people in our state in the event the merger went through, and that may very well be what can be done here,” Ford said. “These are the options that we consider. This is helping to inform us on whether we should be joining the effort (to block the merger) or doing something (similar to T-Mobile) or something in between.”

Grocery workers at the meeting said they were wary of the merger for fear of layoffs at redundant stores and the potential for increased prices when competition decreases. Diane Irwin, an Albertsons employee of nearly four decades, said she feared an impact similar to when the company acquired Vons groceries in 2014.

“The last one was the worst. I saw co-workers get bumped down from full time to part time,” Irwin said. “It makes it uncomfortable for us to go to work every day not knowing what’s going to come.”

Michael Gittings, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 711, said the union opposes the merger and worries about forced store divestitures from the Federal Trade Commission – a step that was required when Albertsons and Vons merged.

Gittings said the union, which represents about 7,000 grocery store workers in Nevada, supports legislation or negotiations around worker retention that would require new buyers of sold grocery stores to keep the existing staff.

Representatives for Albertsons and Kroger did not respond to requests for comment by publication time. The companies have said the merger will streamline its food system and expand the Kroger footprint to areas where its brands don’t currently operate. Rodney MucMullen, Kroger’s CEO and chairman who is expected to keep those titles in the combined company, said the merger could lead to “faster and more profitable growth” and add value for shareholders.

Several more listening sessions about the proposed transaction are scheduled throughout Nevada in the coming weeks. Ford said his office will also add additional nighttime discussions and is circulating an online survey.

  • 11 a.m. on Aug. 29 - Boulder City Council Chamber, 401 California Ave., Boulder City, NV 89005
  • 11 a.m. on Aug. 31 - Pahrump and Tonopah Board of County Commission (BOCC) Chambers 2100 E Walt Williams Drive, Pahrump, NV 89048 (This meeting will be conferenced to the Tonopah Justice Court at 101 Radar Road, Tonopah, NV 89049.)
  • 10 a.m. on Sept 13 - Henderson City Council Chambers, 240 S. Water St., Henderson, NV 89015
  • 1 p.m. on Sept. 13 - North Las Vegas City Hall, 2250 Las Vegas Boulevard N Suite 112, North Las Vegas, NV 89030

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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