Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pointed the finger at grocery stores, blaming them for rising food prices in a series of letters addressed to the CEOs of three major grocery chains earlier this month.
The letters were addressed to the CEOs of Kroger, Albertsons, and Publix, three major grocery store chains, each of which have reported increased profits in the recent fiscal year despite the burdens of inflation and supply chain difficulties.
Warren noted that, while food prices have continued to increase for consumers, many grocery stores have seen increased revenue, alleging that the companies have passed on rising costs to consumers at no expense to shareholders. In each of the letters, Warren recounts an unflattering quote from Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen, in which he claimed “a little bit of inflation is always good in our business” during a call with investors.
“Your companies had a choice: They could have retained lower prices for consumers and properly protected and compensated their workers, or granted massive payouts to top executives and investors. It is disappointing that you chose not to put your customers and workers first,” said Warren in each of the three documents.
Warren continued to publicize her letters in a tweet last Monday.
“Giant grocery store chains force high food prices onto American families while rewarding executives & investors with lavish bonuses and stock buybacks,” said the Massachusetts senator. “I’m demanding they answer for putting corporate profits over consumers and workers during the pandemic.”
Publix in particular has been a target of progressive activists for several years. In 2018, the chain was protested by survivors of the Parkland school shooting, including David Hogg, in response to its donations to Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a vocal supporter of gun rights who was defeated by Ron DeSantis in the subsequent Republican primary. Since then, the chain has drawn criticism for its symbiotic relationship with Governor DeSantis, who partnered with Publix pharmacies to facilitate the rollout of vaccines for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
These criticisms are despite the unique status of Publix as the largest employee-owned company in the world, with a business model not altogether dissimilar from the worker-owned co-ops promoted by many leftists.
The grocery store chain has appeared every year on Fortune magazine’s annual list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” and is renowned for its generous benefits program and long-term career viability. Publix employees also receive quarterly stock dividends without having to buy in, and these benefits are taken directly from the store’s profits—the same record profits which Senator Warren targeted in her letter to Publix CEO Randall Jones.
In the past year, inflation has reached its highest levels in decades, with food prices contributing significantly to overall inflation figures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s November report, food at home prices rose by 6.4 percent in the year from October 2020 to October 2021. Though nobody is enthusiastic to take responsibility for the increasing burdens on consumers, the practice of exchanging blame between politicians and businesses may persist as long as prices continue to grow.