The employees of some of the largest drugstore chains in the United States staged a series of walkouts Monday across the country to demand that the companies fix harsh working conditions, which they say make it hard for them to safely fill prescriptions and could put their customers' health at risk.
Walgreens employees and CVS workers are not all unionized. This makes it difficult to organize a walkout of this magnitude. CNN confirmed that staff and organizers from multiple states have confirmed the walkouts began and will continue through November 1. However, it is unclear just how widespread this action really is.
Walgreens workers and CVS employees have walked out in Arizona, Washington and Massachusetts in September and October. These work actions temporarily closed several pharmacies and affected business in others. Walgreens said at the time that the impact was'minimal'.
Shane Jerominski is an independent pharmacist who worked for Walgreens in Southern California and was one of the walkout organizers. He told CNN that organizers have already been overwhelmed with calls about closed pharmacies.
Jerominski said that prior to walkouts pharmacy staff were afraid of retaliation by their managers and corporate leadership. Jerominski says that there were no reports of retaliation from the leadership. This, he claims, has encouraged more staff to take part. He said that some employees may be still worried about a possible company reprisal, so they call in sick rather than walk out.
Jerominski said that as of early Monday morning, he did not have an exact number for the number of stores or workers who had participated in this job action. He told CNN he expected momentum to grow over the next few days, with the biggest day of action planned for Wednesday.
He says that representatives of unions are helping plan the walkouts, which were specifically planned to begin on the day before Halloween. This is a busy time for pharmacie chains because the cold and flu seasons have begun and the demand for vaccines has risen.
On Sunday, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union told CNN that the union supports the organizers of a protest and walkout. The Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers West has also stated that it supports the protests and walkout.
'UFCW staff and members have been in contact with CVS and Walgreens employees who are taking action to protect their rights at work. As the largest Retail Pharmacy Union of North America, we are ready to help where workers are struggling, said Dave Young, UFCW International Vice-President & Director of Organizing.
Renee Saldana said, in a recent statement to CNN, that 'health care workers and consumers experience unprecedented strain due to understaffing' by health care corporations. We support all health workers who are organizing to improve staffing.
Walgreens representatives and CVS reps told CNN they had not seen many disruptions to their operations on Monday. We are committed to providing consistent, high-quality, and safe health care for the patients and communities that we serve. We engage in a two-way dialog with our pharmacists and directly address any concerns, said Amy Thibault, a CVS Pharmacy spokesperson.
This story is in progress and will be updated.