For more than 2 months, Kroger workers across Western Washington haven’t received proper wages

On December 16, grocery store workers and their union representatives passed out leaflets on the problems they've had with their pay in recent months. Photo by Lauren Gallup.
Grocery store workers and union representatives pass out leaflets Dec. 16. the leaflets provide information on the problems workers have had with their pay in recent months. Credit: Lauren Gallup



Grocery store workers employed by Kroger brands QFC and Fred Meyer said they have experienced problems with their paychecks since October, including flat out not receiving them.

Angela Reetz, a cashier and customer service representative at Fred Meyer in Tumwater, said she was not paid for four weeks.

“I have been experiencing some really horrible payroll issues with the new payroll system,” Reetz said.

Kroger switched to a new payroll system on Oct. 1 in Washington state called My Info. Since then, droves of employees have not received their paychecks and have had incorrect fees taken out for health insurance or union dues. Employees in Mason and Thurston counties also said they haven’t received the raises they voted on last spring.

While Reetz is now receiving her wages, she said her weekly paychecks are still a beast to comprehend.

“I’m still receiving inaccurate payroll stubs, which don’t reflect a lot of my actual earnings. They’re difficult to read. It’s confusing,” Reetz said. “Our raises weren’t even added when they were supposed to be back on Oct. 16.”

In her opinion, Reetz said the payroll system switch has been a failure. And, she said what has made the situation even more difficult is the lack of effort and response from Kroger.

“They have not made any formal apologies,” Reetz said. “I’ve talked to many of my coworkers. Nobody’s received any formal apologies for this crazy mistake of a system … Our logo [is] ‘Make it right for our customer,’ and I’m more than happy to do that. But I’m wondering, who in my company is going to make it right for us employees?”

Reetz, who’s had to cut back work at Fred Meyer and work more at her second job to make ends meet, has also had to borrow money from family. 

Her husband had a series of strokes this year, and she said some days she wondered if she should go into work, where she wasn’t getting paid, or stay home to take care of her husband.

“Having to decipher, should I go into work when I’m not sure I’m gonna get paid?” Reetz said. “Or do I just hang back, take care of him, work my second job? This shouldn’t happen.”

Reetz has concerns about her medical insurance. She’s had inaccurate fees pulled out of her paychecks — both under and over the correct amount. 

Reetz filed a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, as have many of her fellow members of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 367. 

The leaflet that Local 367 union members and representatives passed out to shoppers on December 16. Photo by Lauren Gallup.

The leaflet that Local 367 union members and representatives passed out to shoppers on December 16. Photo by Lauren Gallup.

Patty Estes, a union representative for the local, said the first missing paychecks started Oct. 6, five days after Kroger enacted the new system. She said anywhere from five to 10 employees missed paychecks per store.

“It was very random, including managers, salaried managers that are not in the union, union members,” Estes said. “It was very, very random. That went on for a few weeks.”

Kroger paid out some employees from cash registers, until the company said that was illegal, Estes said. Then, when around 600 wage increases didn’t come for employees in Mason and Thurston counties, Estes said the union reached out to the company with these concerns.

Kroger said it would be resolved in a week.

It wasn’t. It still hasn’t been.

Estes said several members she represents  tracked how much Kroger owes them.

“As far as the wage increases go, most of them are over $1,000 that they owe them at this point,” she said.

Extra union dues have been taken out of some members’ paychecks. Estes said the union has given these employees credits.

Fred Meyer spokesperson Jeffrey Temple said in an emailed statement to NWPB, “We have apologized to our associates and understand the impact. We have resolved the vast majority of issues and are ensuring our associates are paid timely and accurately.” 

Kroger did not respond to further questions, including why – after Temple sent that emailed response – many members still received inaccurate information on their paychecks.

Reetz and Estes disputed the statement, saying Kroger has never apologized to its employees.

Mark McLaughlin is Reetz’s coworker. McLaughlin said he has received payments, but like the rest of fellow Kroger employees in Mason and Thurston counties, his paychecks haven’t reflected the raise his union ratified in their contract this past spring. 

Mark McLaughlin, right, talks to another member as they pass out leaflets about the wage problem on December 16. Photo by Lauren Gallup.

Mark McLaughlin, right, talks to another member as they pass out leaflets about the wage problem on December 16. Photo by Lauren Gallup.

“We were supposed to get the raise, and we just have not received it since then,” McLaughlin said. “We’re supposed to eventually get it and get retro pay. But, let’s say I were to put that money into a savings account and it could gather interest, that’s literally money that I won’t get now.”

As the year ends, employees are not only frustrated and stressed about lost wages but the potential impacts on their taxes.

“We don’t even know what that would look like, if they don’t get us paid by the end of the year,” McLaughlin said. “What’s the W-2 situation going to be? Is it going to be on us? Is it gonna be on the company? We just don’t know what that will look like.”

Members and union representatives said they worry there could be further consequences like incorrect contributions to pension funds, health insurance and inaccurate hours that could affect vacation time. 

“The long and short of it is, the company is stealing from its employees at this point,” McLaughlin said. “That’s wage theft. It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, in this country, but it is a pretty blatant example, in this case.”

Like Reetz, McLaughlin has filed an L&I complaint.

Estes has helped members file L&I complaints in the hopes that regulators can force Kroger to make it right.

“A lot of our members can’t even afford the groceries that they stock on the shelves every day, let alone if they’re not getting the raises that they voted on the company agreed to or just flat out not getting paid,” Estes said.

L&I officials said the department won’t implement wage increases and couldn’t help employees who haven’t received those wage increases.

“We said, ‘Well, that’s the problem,’” Estes said. “The wages haven’t been implemented yet, but they were supposed to have been.”

So, Estes said they’ve been going back and forth to figure out how regulators can help. The department has accepted complaints from employees who have had incorrect amounts taken out of their wages. 

In one week, Estes said they collected over 200 complaints, which doesn’t include ones that were filed online. 

The union filed a formal grievance on Nov. 15, which Kroger denied on Nov. 28, saying  it hadn’t violated the contract. 

In its response, Kroger officials said, “Our office is aware of discrepancies in the negotiated wage amounts. We are in the process of making the necessary corrections, and once complete, retro pay will be calculated moving members into the correct wage amounts.”

Michael Hines, president of UFCW Local 367, said the union won’t accept that denial. The union plans to have the company sit down for a formal meeting to resolve the issue, which he hopes will happen by the New Year.

Hines said he believes this is a glitch that because of incompetence has not been fixed.

“I think what upsets us the most is that it doesn’t seem to be a priority for the company to fix it,” Hines said. “I’ve been doing this for about 26 years. And I’ve never seen this happen. Any other company, you might see an issue here and there with pay with payroll that gets fixed. But I’ve never seen any company going into the holidays where their associates are just not receiving paychecks.”