U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola headshot. Photo by Chris Witschy

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to consider the proposed merger of two grocery chains serving Alaska consumers, Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, is urging residents to write to the FTC and express their opinions regarding the impact the merger would have on consumers and the overall Alaska economy. 

Concerns range for limiting competition and purchase options for a wide range of grocery items to higher prices, and closure of some supermarkets, putting a number of supermarket employees out of jobs. 

There is no current public comment period as the merger is in its final stages of review.  

“We believe the FTC has not yet made their decision and are continuing to encourage Alaskans to share their concerns,” said Sam Erickson, communications director for Peltola. “The FTC also has public testimony at their bimonthly public meetings. There will be one in January, but the date has not been announced yet.”  

Meanwhile Alaskans can email their comments to [email protected] or via the postal service at: 

Office of Policy and Coordination, Room CC-5422, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580. 

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Peltola and Alaska Teamster Union Local 959 invited Alaskans to join in a roundtable discussion on the proposed merger on Thursday, Jan. 4, at the Teamsters’ hall in Anchorage.  

“The more power and the more consolidated they are the more challenging it is [to negotiate fair wages],” Peltola said. “And we see that with every sector but certainly the grocery sector is no different and so that is a real clear threat and I think one we should be speaking to and making sure … that wages won’t go down, that sick leave, things like that, the benefits that are negotiated, aren’t diminished.” 

Peltola also voiced concerns about possible increased grocery prices, stores being close enough for consumers to shop there and shelves being stocked. Kroger has said the merger would actually bring lower prices and more choices for fresh food. 

Patrick Fitzgerald, political coordinator for Teamster Local 959, said the merger would be something that will affect everyone one way or another “with what we can buy at the grocery stores, what we have access to, and a huge part of food security.”  

Nearly half of the Alaska Legislature, back in early October, sent a letter to the FTC urging the federal agency to block the $24.6 billion deal proposed by Kroger and Albertsons, parent companies of Fred Meyer, and Carrs/Safeway respectively.   

The merger creates an opportunity for monopolistic practices and an environment that lacks competition, as these companies are Alaska’s two major grocery store chains, legislators said. 

They told FTC Chair Lina Khan that resulting local store closures would inevitably lead Kroger to lay off hundreds of Albertsons employees, most of whom are part of a well-established labor union that advocates for livable wages and benefits, and that Kroger does not offer similar packages. Legislators noted that Kroger anticipates closing 14 stores in Alaska owned by Albertsons, currently operating under Carrs and Safeway.  

Legislators told the FTC that the state was already struggling to find enough people to fill jobs in both the public and private sectors, from police officers, bus drivers and teachers in the public sector to private sector positions in the service industry, childcare and health care industries. 

The federal government must consider Alaska’s unique economy when considering this merger; its decisions should help us address our workforce challenges, not generate additional hurdles, they said. 

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