The Ralphs supermarket chain, owned by Kroger Co., was indicted Thursday on federal charges of hiring workers under false names and violating other labor laws during the 2003 grocery strike in California.
LOS ANGELES — The Ralphs supermarket chain, owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., was indicted Thursday on federal charges of hiring workers under false names and violating numerous other labor laws during the 2003 grocery strike in Southern California.
The 106-page indictment, returned by a federal grand jury, accuses Ralphs of engaging in a “company-wide course of criminal conduct involving the hiring of locked-out employees under false names, Social Security numbers and documentation.”
The grocery chain issued thousands of paychecks to falsely identified employees and allowed the workers to cash the checks at its stores, the indictment alleged. The chain tried to conceal the practice from the workers’ union by sending locked-out employees to work at stores far from the stores at which they regularly worked, the indictment charged.
Ralphs locked out its employees on Oct. 11, 2003, after Southern California grocery workers voted to strike against Safeway Inc.’s Vons and Pavilions chains.
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At the time, Ralphs, Safeway and Albertsons Inc. were negotiating with the workers’ union. Ralphs brought in replacement workers to keep the stores running. In all, about 59,000 workers were idled at 859 stores.
About a month into the walkout, the United Food and Commercial Workers union withdrew picket lines at Ralphs stores. The strike lasted more than four months, cost store owners more than $2 billion by some estimates and resulted in the loss of many customers.
The indictment came more than a year after Kroger revealed that federal authorities were probing allegations that Ralphs knowingly allowed locked-out employees to work under false identities.