Employees at some of the largest drugstore chains in U.S. like CVS and Walgreens, staged a new series of walkouts across the country on Monday. The CVS walkout along with Walgreens walkout is for the demand that the companies fix what employees say are harsh working conditions. These conditions make it difficult for them to safely fill prescriptions, which could put the health of their customers at risk.
The largest drugstore chains in U.S. Walgreens and CVS employees are mostly not unionized, which makes a largescale walkout difficult to execute. Staff and organizers in multiple states confirmed that the Walgreens and CVS walkouts have begun and will take place through November 1, but it remains unclear how widespread the action is.
Walgreens and CVS walkout
Previously workers at Walgreens and CVS have staged walkouts in Arizona, Washington, Massachusetts and Oregon in September and early October. Those walkouts closed a handful of pharmacies briefly and slowed business at several others. At the time, as per Walgreens the impact of walkouts has been “minimal.”
During prior walkouts, pharmacy staff feared retaliation from their bosses and corporate leadership. But there was no reported reprisal from leadership, which emboldened more staff to participate in walkouts.
Concerns by pharmacy employees
As per report there have been at least 25 store closures.
Fraser Engerman, a Walgreens spokesperson said that just two stores closed on Monday and no more than 12 pharmacists walkout across the entire country.
As per Shane Jerominski, an independent pharmacist in Southern California who used to work for Walgreens and is one of the walkout’s organizers, many employees who may still be concerned about a company reprisal are calling out sick instead of walking out, and those absences wouldn’t be counted as official Walgreens walkouts.
Momentum increasing of walkouts
He expects momentum to build over the next three days and culminate Wednesday with a planned demonstration outside Walgreens’ headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.
Jerominski also said that a GoFundMe page, initially started to help unionization efforts among pharmacy staff, had reached more than $60,000 and was being used as an emergency relief fund for workers who needed financial help in order to call out of work and participate in the walkout.
He says representatives from unions are helping to plan the walkouts which were specifically scheduled to begin the day before Halloween because it’s a particularly busy time for pharmacy chains as cold and flu season begins and demand for vaccinations soars.
Support for pharmacy walkouts
The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West also said it supports the walkout and protests owing to harsh working conditions.
“UFCW members and staff have been communicating with many of the CVS and Walgreens workers who have been taking actions to stand up for their rights on the job. We are the largest Retail Pharmacy Union in North America, and as such, where workers struggle, we stand ready to assist,” said Dave Young, UFCW International vice-president and director of organizing.
The American Pharmacists Association, an advocacy group for pharmacy workers across the country, said in a statement Monday that it “stands with every pharmacist who participated in the walkout today.”
APhA CEO Michael Hogue recently traveled to Kansas City to meet with pharmacy staff and executives from CVS who has stated walkouts.
“For far too long, employers have made the situation worse than it needed to be. Supervisors who are not pharmacists do not understand the needs of care teams and make unreasonable demands on time-based productivity,” he wrote on Monday.
Walgreens and CVS on walkouts
On Monday as per Walgreens and CVS representatives that they haven’t seen much of a disruption to operations. “We’re committed to providing access to consistent, safe, high-quality health care to the patients and communities we serve and are engaging in a continuous two-way dialogue with our pharmacists to directly address any concerns they have,” said Amy Thibault, a spokesperson for CVS Pharmacy.
Why the Walgreens and CVS walkout?
As per a Walgreens spokesperson they “recognize the incredible work our pharmacists do every day, especially this time of year when there is increased demand for their services across communities.”
“Our leaders are in our pharmacies regularly, listening to concerns and frustrations and responding to feedback. We have taken steps over the last two years to improve pharmacists’ experience, advance the profession and enable them to provide the high value care they were trained to do. Nearly all of our 25,000 pharmacists continue to serve their customers and communities this week, and we thank them for it,” the spokesperson said.
Organizers, meanwhile, have encouraged advocates for pharmacy workers and pharmacy safety to join their protests.
As per Loretta Boesing, a patient advocate and the founder of Unite for Safe Medications she plans to join the protest on Wednesday at Walgreens’ corporate headquarters. She said her son is a liver transplant recipient who needs to take medication every 12 hours.
While technicians complete many tasks around the pharmacy, they can’t advise on medication and many pharmacies have just one registered pharmacist scheduled per shift. Pharmacies can close abruptly when a pharmacist can’t work.
Boesing said she’s also reaching out and urging other patients to support the Wednesday demonstration.