Workers at some of the largest drug store chains in the United States are demanding that the companies fix what they say are harsh working conditions that make it difficult to fill prescriptions safely, and that could increase. The health of their customers at risk.
Workers at Walgreens and CVS are largely non-unionized, making it difficult to stage a large walkout. Workers and organizers in several states have confirmed to CNN that the walkout has begun and will continue through November 1, but it is unclear how widespread the action has become.
Walgreens and CVS workers previously held walkouts in Arizona, Washington, Massachusetts and Oregon in September and early October. Those actions briefly closed a few pharmacies, and slowed business at others. At the time, Walgreens told CNN the impact was “minimal.”
Shan Jerominski, an independent pharmacist in Southern California who used to work for Walgreens and is one of the pageant’s organizers, told CNN on Monday that organizers have been overwhelmed with calls about closed pharmacies.
During previous walkouts, pharmacy workers feared retaliation from their bosses and corporate leadership, Jerominski said. But he said no retaliation by management was reported, which encouraged more workers to get involved.
Jerominski confirmed to CNN at least 25 store closings.
Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman told CNN that only two stores were closed on Monday and more than 12 pharmacists were out across the country. He did not immediately clarify whether that would include pharmacy workers.
Jerominski said many employees who may still be concerned about company retaliation are calling in sick instead of walking out, and those absences are not considered official walkouts at Walgreens.
It will build momentum over the next three days and culminate Wednesday outside Walgreens headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.
Jerominski also said an initial GoFundMe page started to help union efforts among pharmacy workers has raised more than $60,000 and is being used as emergency aid for workers who need funding to call off work and participate in the walkout. .
He The union representatives say They are helping to plan. Walks scheduled to start the day before Halloween because that’s it. A particularly busy time for pharmacy chains is when colds and flu begin and demand for vaccines increases.
A spokeswoman for the United Nations Food and Commercial Workers International Union told CNN on Sunday that organizers would support the planned walkout and protests. Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West also said it supports the walkout and protests.
“UFCW members and workers have been meeting with many CVS and Walgreens workers as they take steps to assert their rights on the job. We are the largest retail pharmacy union in North America, and when workers fight back, we stand ready to help,” UFCW International Vice President and Organizing Director Dave Young told CNN.
“Health care workers and consumers are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the shortage of health care corporations,” UHW-West Health Press Secretary Renee Saldaña said in a statement to CNN last week. “We support all health care workers who organize and take a stand to improve labor supply.”
“We stand with all pharmacists who participated in today’s walkout,” the American Pharmacists Association, an advocacy group for pharmacy workers across the country, said in a statement Monday.
APhA CEO Michael Hogg recently traveled to Kansas City to meet with pharmacy workers and CVS executives.
“For too long, employers have made the situation worse than it needs to be. Non-pharmacist supervisors don’t understand the needs of care teams and make unreasonable demands on time-based productivity,” he wrote on Monday.
“He simply fails to recognize that the number of prescriptions filled in an hour, or the number of vaccinations administered per day, or the quota on time to answer the phone, is not a transaction of the pharmacist-patient relationship. It is a unique commitment—and regulators who boil everything down to numbers and time frames destroy that relationship in the name of profitability.” This must be stopped immediately.
Representatives from Walgreens and CVS told CNN on Monday that they didn’t see much. of Discontinuance of operations. ““We are committed to providing consistent, safe and high-quality healthcare to the patients and communities we serve and are in ongoing two-way dialogue with our pharmacists to directly address any concerns that arise,” said Amy Thibault. A CVS Pharmacy spokeswoman.
The Michigan-based pharmacist told CNN that she had tendered her resignation Monday in response to the proposed job action. She said she worked as a pharmacist for 35 years, but decided to leave Walgreens after seven years because of multiple workplace issues, including refusal to provide sick leave, severe staff shortages and no lunch breaks, while only working 14-hour shifts.
CNN has personally verified her employment and resignation letters.
A Walgreens spokesperson told CNN, “Our pharmacists recognize the incredible work they do every day, especially this year as demand for their services increases throughout communities.”
“Our leaders are visiting our pharmacies regularly, listening to concerns and frustrations and responding to feedback. Over the past two years we have taken steps to improve the experience of pharmacists, advance the profession and enable them to deliver the high-value care they are trained for. “Almost all of our 25,000 pharmacists have continued to serve their customers and communities this week, for which we are grateful,” the spokesperson said.
Organizers, meanwhile, encouraged pharmacy workers and pharmacy safety advocates to join their protest.
Lorette Boesing, a patient advocate and founder of the Unit for Safer Medicines, told CNN that she plans to join the protest at Walgreens corporate headquarters on Wednesday. She said her son is a liver transplant recipient who must take medication every 12 hours.
“I never thought I’d have to be an advocate to make sure he got the medicine safely,” Bossing said. “I’ve seen pharmacy closings and pharmacy deserts on the rise, and it’s sad and scary to see pharmacies in this state. I want to make sure pharmacies are safe, and I applaud all pharmacists who use their voices to help patients.
While technicians perform many tasks in the pharmacy environment, they cannot provide medication advice and many pharmacies only have one registered pharmacist per shift. Pharmacies can suddenly close when a pharmacist is unable to work.
Boesing said she is also lending a hand and asking other patients to support Wednesday’s march. “Pharmacists working in low-end pharmacies face a lot of verbal abuse. Too many patients take their frustrations to pharmacists, so I think it would be great to have more voice support from patients.