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Labor Laws and Unions Essay

Kroger Company Overview

Kroger is the largest chain of grocery stores in United States and by volume, the second major grocery retailer after Wal-Mart. In year 2010, it had over 3,619 stores and over $80.9 billion sales. However, Kroger stands at the edge of encountering unending legal battles. Kroger Company employees have reported that the company discriminates them racially and on gender basis. Recently, a federal court accused a Kroger grocery store for discriminating a black employee in Ohio.

Kroger Company also has poor safety precautionary measures that have contributed to multiple accidents in grocery stores. Such is the case with Ivan Spencer v. Kroger Company (2004) where Spencer, a cleaner accused Kroger Company of carelessly placing boxes containing bottles that spilt liquid and made Spencer slip and fall thus succumbing to a spinal injury. More so, the International Labor Organization has reportedly indicated that Kroger offers wages below minimum-wage rate and subjects workers to work overtime with no pay (Cihon & Castagnera, 2010).

Laws that Kroger is Likely to Break

With the employee discrimination, low wages and improper safety precautionary measures at Kroger Company, Kroger is likely to break laws such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission law that enforces anti-discrimination at Federal level and the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination at the state level. Additionally, the company is likely to break the Fair Labor Standards Act that protects employees against overtime pay and minimum wages at state level, and ‘living wage’ laws at the local level that requires employers to pay employees benefits and wages that can sustain employees within the local economic environment.

Blanpain & Ben-Israël (2001) indicate that the federal law has provisions for expected minimal safety standards, overtime rights for workers and minimum wages rights and therefore, Kroger could face legal issues at the Federal level. However, the company risks encountering stringent legal issues because the local and state laws have expansive and strict rights on the same legal issues addressed by the Federal law.

As Farber (2001) indicates, unions seek to protect employee’s rights through labor laws. They ensure that employers uphold employees’ basic rights such as protection against discrimination, proper working conditions and proper wages whilst maintaining the basic rights of employers or organizations. A union ensures that there is salary fairness. For instance, if a union technician gets $20 each hour in California, a union can bargain so that a company can set the wage rate at $30 dollars each hour.

In such cases, the union maintains fairness by handling management constrains; ensuring that both the union and the company comes up with new ways of making money so that the company is not constrained by the increased worker’s salary. For instance, the union and the company might decide to train workers so that they can perform additional tasks or might decide to come up with projects that can support the salary increase. This applies to other cases such as improper working conditions and discrimination among others. Therefore, if Kroger accommodates a union, it would be much easier to negotiate and discuss legal issues at a company-union level rather than at court-employee level thus avoiding unnecessary legal proceedings.

Unionization Process

In this case, Kroger would have to go through a unionized bargaining process. Unionization is a process by which employees join together in order to fight for a common cause (better wages, working conditions and a discrimination-free workplace) under protected law. As Smith (2001) puts it, unionization is the process by which workers organize campaigns, sign authorization cards, conduct formal election and certify the elections through the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) in order to protect themselves from unfair exploitation by the employer in the workplace. The certification requires the employer to bargain in good faith. This allows a union to collectively bargain on behalf of the employees.

The union leaders hold a meeting to discuss serious employees issues such as working conditions and outlay changes needed in employee-employer contract. The leaders hold a meeting with the employer in order to negotiate while examining the internal (enterprise) and external (employee) factors. In case of disagreement, a third neutral party is involved. If a third party presence does not help, unions either go slow or advocate for employees to strike until the employer meets their demands (Smith, 2001)


As we can see, unionization is the only viable process through which companies like Kroger can minimize litigations. Through the unionization bargaining process, the employer and the union can lay out grievance procedures through which employees can air their grievances. This helps the company to address workplace issues such as working conditions and discrimination at the work-place level before they can surmount into unending and hefty legal procedures.

In addition, the bargain ensures that both the employer and the employees benefit; employee’s rights are upheld and the employer gets to mitigate costly reputation-damaging legal proceedings and handle management constraints such as employee satisfaction, compensation and salary schemes. With the benefits derived by organizations and employees from unionization, it is clear that even in the latter part of the century, the viability of the unions will be sustained (Cascio, 2010).


Blanpain, R., & Ben-Israël, R. (2001). Labour law, human rights and social justice. London, LND: Kluwer Law International.

Cascio, W. (2010). Managing human resources: Productivity, quality of work life, profits (8th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Cihon, P. J. & Castagnera, J. O. (2010). Employment & labor law. London, LND: Cengage Learning.

Farber, H.S. (2001). Notes on the economics of labor unions. Web.

Smith, P. (2001). Unionization and union leadership: The road haulage industry. London, LND: Routledge.

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