By Joedy McCreary
The Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Grocery workers at 44 Kroger stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky began a strike Monday night after rejecting the company's contract offer earlier in the day.
More than 2,000 members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 approved the strike.
A Kroger spokesman said the company planned to close the stores about midnight Monday. Only its pharmacies will stay open.
"The proposal doesn't provide enough money to pay for our benefits," union president Jim Lowthers said. "They ought to be providing for the families that helped earn that money."
The union represents about 3,300 workers for the Cincinnati-based chain in 37 stores in West Virginia, five in Ohio and two in Kentucky. The Ohio stores are in Belpre, Gallipolis, Marietta, Pomeroy and Proctorville.
A 24-hour Kroger store in Charleston closed at 10 p.m. Monday, and about two dozen workers walked a picket line in the parking lot as passing motorists honked support.
Similar picket lines were planned for the other stores.
Rex McGuire, a clerk at the Kroger in Gallipolis, said workers objected to reductions in benefits.
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