Kroger e-commerce center workers vote to join Teamsters

Workers at a Kroger automated warehouse near Detroit have voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, making the facility the first fulfillment center run by the grocer to unionize, the labor organization announced May 20.

The 289 drivers at the e-commerce center who participated in the election voted by a 3-to-1 margin to join Teamsters Local 337. The workers are seeking “higher wages, better health and welfare benefits, a pension, and fair and consistent work rules,” the union said.

The Teamsters said they plan to begin bargaining with Kroger over the terms of a contract after the vote receives certification from the National Labor Relations Board. 

A Kroger spokesperson did not respond by publication time to a request for comment about the workers’ decision to unionize.

The fulfillment center, which is located in Romulus, Michigan, and opened in October 2022, provides grocery delivery service to customers in the greater Detroit area. The center is part of the network of e-commerce warehouses Kroger has developed in partnership with automation specialist Ocado.

The workers’ decision to join the Teamsters comes as Kroger angles to win approval for its controversial plan to merge with Albertsons, which the union has said it stands against. The labor organization represents about 22,000 employees at stores, distribution centers and manufacturing plants operated by the grocery giants, and said last June that it had decided to oppose the merger after discussions with the companies “to protect the most basic interests” of workers.

“We expected better from these two longtime Teamster employers. Clearly, they are more interested in guaranteeing big payouts for management,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement at the time of that announcement.

Last December, the Teamsters urged the Federal Trade Commission to reject Kroger and Albertsons’ plan to sell hundreds of stores and other assets to assuage antitrust concerns surrounding their proposed combination.

The FTC said the divestiture arrangement with C&S Wholesale Grocers was inadequate when the agency announced in February that it would seek a federal injunction to block the merger, prompting Kroger and Albertsons to announce a more robust arrangement with C&S.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, another union that represents Kroger and Albertsons workers, also opposes the merger.