Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, praised working conditions inside Kroger stores in West Virginia.
"Kroger employees provide customers good services. You get whatever you need in their stores. Happy employees appreciate customers who come in and help them any way they can," Perdue said.
Steve White, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation -- a coalition of building trades unions, recently criticized Kroger for not hiring more local workers for its local construction projects, including the ongoing major expansion at Kroger's Ashton Place outlet.
"We have had some discussions with Kroger aimed at trying to find ways to get more local bidders and workers on their projects," White said last month.
Kroger is planning to spend $200 million a year for the next five years, White said, to improve its stores across the country.
"We hope to meet with Kroger again in late January for some further discussions," White said last week. "I think the next store in this area that they want to remodel is the one in Kanawha City.
"We hope local workers and local contractors can do the work because we are the ones who shop there.
"I also hope Kroger's workers get a good contract next year. We are in support of those employees. They deserve fair pay and benefits," White said.
"Clearly, our members prefer shopping at Kroger because we know their workers have a union contract with benefits and fair pay," White said.
"Walmart has low prices, but they shift costs onto taxpayers. Instead of reasonable wage and benefits plans, Walmart employees end up with government plans," he said.
"It doesn't seem like a fair business model," White said. "It is a hidden form of corporate welfare."
In July, Kroger spent nearly $2.5 billion to purchase 212 Harris Teeter stores, located along the Atlantic coast, from Delaware to Florida.
After the deal is complete, Kroger will operate more than 2,600 food stores in 34 states and Washington, D.C.
"You can be good to your employees, pay them good wages, respect their dignity and still have a profitable private business," Matheney said.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.