United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest grocery industry union, is seeking to represent employees of Home Chef’s Chicago-area production and distribution site.
In a filing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), UFCW reported that it aims to unionize 188 workers at the Bedford Park, Illinois, facility of Relish Labs LLC dba Home Chef, a meal solutions subsidiary of The Kroger Co. The filing was made Aug. 18 with NLRB’s Chicago office.
Employees at the Bedford Park center whom UFCW proposes to represent—under Chicago-based UFCW Local 1546—include full-time and part-time gatekeepers, production associates, laborers, maintenance mechanics, environmental health and safety leads, forklift operators, pallet-jack operators, machine operators, quality control, runners, sanitation workers, training leads, warehouse associates, shipping/receiving staff and shift leads, according to the NLRB filing.
UFCW, Home Chef and Kroger couldn’t immediately be reached by Winsight Grocery Business for comment.
This past May, UFCW International had voiced its official opposition to the $24.6 billion Kroger-Albertsons merger deal announced last fall. In announcing its stance on the proposed transaction, UFCW stated that the 1.3 million-member union would reject merger deals that “pose a threat to essential workers, their families and the communities they serve.”
Chicago-based Home Chef was acquired by Kroger in mid-2018 and has since rolled out its products to more than 2,000 Kroger Co. stores nationwide. In quarterly earnings calls, Kroger executives have cited strong sales for Home Chef since the pandemic, and last fall the brand exceeded sales of $1 billion. Erik Jensen became Home Chef CEO in February 2022, succeeding founder Pat Vihtelic, who served on the company’s advisory board through the end of last year.
Home Chef turned 10 years old back in May and since its launch has served up more than 350 million meals in 48 states, generating over 4,500 recipes and launching 500-plus products at Kroger Co. stores. Its operations include four production and distribution facilities in Baltimore; Chicago; San Bernardino, California; and Atlanta.
The most recent sites to open were the 170,000-square-foot Baltimore and 181,000-square-foot Douglasville, Georgia, locations. The Baltimore facility was Home Chef’s first to incorporate a full-service kitchen for cooking and batch production of ingredients to be used in its meals. Home Chef said it offers meals online and in-store in range of formats, including meal kits, oven-ready/heat-and-eat options and add-ons like protein packs, beverages, salads and desserts.