Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002 | 10:53 a.m.
Three Raley's supermarkets are targeted for closure as part of Kroger Co.'s acquisition of Raley's 18 stores in the Las Vegas market.
Kroger, the Cincinnati-based parent company of Smith's Food & Drug and Food 4 Less, announced Friday it is acquiring 18 Raley's stores in the Las Vegas area for an undisclosed price. The acquisition is subject to review by regulators for antitrust concerns.
Although company officials haven't officially announced which stores will close, a Sept. 13 memorandum obtained by the Las Vegas Sun indicated the decision had been reached. It also said Smith's employees were to be given the opportunity to transfer to a new store before any Raley's employees were interviewed.
According to the memo to Smith's Las Vegas employees, the Raley's stores that would be closed are at West Lake Mead and North Rampart boulevards, Flamingo Road and Boulder Highway and Eastern Avenue and Windmill Parkway.
Seven Raley's would be converted to Smith's stores and eight would become Food 4 Less warehouse outlets.
Seven stores that would be converted to Smith's would be at South Buffalo Drive at Flamingo Road, North Jones Boulevard at Vegas Drive, West Sahara Avenue at Fort Apache Road, West Flamingo Road at Jones Boulevard, South Valle Verde Drive at Interstate 215, North Rainbow Boulevard at Cheyenne Avenue and West Craig Road at Decatur Boulevard.
Eight stores that would become Food 4 Less are at Green Valley Parkway at Patrick Lane, West Sahara Avenue at South Valley View Boulevard, East Tropicana and Eastern avenues, South Eastern and Sahara avenues, North Nellis and East Lake Mead boulevards, South Lamb Road at East Charleston Boulevard, Rainbow Boulevard at Westcliff Drive and at 260 E. Lake Mead Drive.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Raley's employees hope their union will be able to convince Kroger to allow them to keep their seniority if they are hired to work at stores being converted.
Representatives of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 711 will meet with Kroger management Thursday to ask them to reconsider their stance on seniority.
Kroger officials have said any Raley's employees who go to work for the company will come in as new hires and would lose any seniority they have accrued. That loss of seniority could affect the status of an employees' company benefits, including vacation time and pension plans.
Raley's employees who asked not to be identified because they plan to interview with Kroger said they are concerned because they'll be competing against colleagues for a limited number of jobs as well as losing seniority.
"There are people who have worked for the company for 25 years that will lose a lot," a Raley's employee said.
Many Raley's employees have been through a similar transition three years ago -- only they didn't lose their seniority then.
When Raley's entered the Las Vegas market, the company acquired stores that had to be divested by Albertsons.
Albertsons had acquired American Stores Co.'s Lucky supermarkets, but the Federal Trade Commission required Albertsons to sell off some of its stores because of antitrust issues.
In a massive version of supermarket musical chairs, Albertsons moved into Lucky's stores and Raley's acquired and moved into the old Albertsons stores. The Albertsons employees who moved to Raley's were represented by the union and were allowed to keep their seniority.
Because three stores will be closing -- each has about 80 to 100 employees -- there will be 240 to 300 fewer jobs for the 1,400 Raley's workers who have been invited to reapply for their jobs.
Another Raley's employee said some of her colleagues took advantage of favorable interest rates and bought new homes and news cars. Now, they don't know whether they'll get their $16-an-hour wage if they're hired by Kroger.
"I may have to cut hours or take a grocery bagging job just to keep working," the employee said.
Raley's employees said last week was doubly painful for workers who paid tribute to Sept. 11 attack victims on Wednesday, then got the news of the sale of the company on Friday the 13th. Some are calling themselves "the Sept. 13 victims."
Marsha Gilford, assistant vice president of public affairs at Smith's corporate office in Salt Lake City, said the acquisition of the company involved assets and not employees.
"Every contract is different," Gilford said. "But we realize the experience and the quality of the Raley's employees and we are very enthusiastic about hiring many of them. We think they will be very happy with the company and what we have to offer."