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Rhode Island CVS pharmacies file to unionize

Two CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island, the state where the company’s corporate headquarters is located, filed to unionize Friday as workers across the industry continue to highlight an escalating staffing crisis and cite concerns about patient safety. 

Pharmacists at the stores in Wakefield and Westerly are seeking to join The Pharmacy Guild, a U.S. trade union exclusively specializing in representing and unionizing pharmacy professionals, to fight for higher staffing levels, which they argue will lead to optimal patient safety and care outcomes. Both pharmacies are standalone 24-hour pharmacies. 

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
CVSCVS HEALTH CORP.68.65-1.07-1.53%

These pharmacies join workers in Nevada, who filed to unionize with The Pharmacy Guild at the end of March. 

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The pharmacy professionals at CVS Omnicare in Las Vegas became the first in the nation to join the nationwide push to unionize “and transform the high-stakes industry,” according to the group. 

“Our pharmacy, like most corporate pharmacies, often lacks the safe staffing levels needed to deliver the standard of care our patients deserve,” one CVS Omnicare pharmacy professional active in the drive said at the time. “My patients count on me to keep them healthy and safe, and by unionizing I’ll gain a voice to do just that.”

CVS pharmacy shopping cart

A CVS pharmacy shopping cart outside a store in Pinole, Calif., July 18, 2023.  (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

CVS said in a statement to FOX Business the company respects “employees’ right to either unionize or refrain from doing so.” 

“We believe the direct, two-way relationship we have with our colleagues is the best way to resolve workplace concerns, and we continually listen to our colleagues’ feedback, which helps inform our programs and policies,” CVS said in a statement. 

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But pharmacists have been drawing attention to what they say are “unsafe staffing levels” across the industry for years, with a particular focus during the pandemic. This led to protests last fall by workers at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens who demanded better working conditions. 

In one of the walkouts in late October 2023, called “Pharmageddon,” workers at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid pledged to call in sick all at once. A similar protest occurred a few weeks earlier when Walgreens employees at 25 stores called out sick. 

A CVS pharmacy

A CVS pharmacy in San Francisco July 18, 2023.  (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In September 2023, CVS employees in at least a dozen Kansas stores didn’t show up to work in a separate walkout. 

By contrast, CVS argued that its customer and colleague net promoter scores (NPS), which measure loyalty, satisfaction and enthusiasm, have continued to trend upward in the front store and pharmacy, which the company argued was a result of investments made in stores and pharmacies. 

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WBAWALGREENS BOOTS ALLIANCE INC.17.85-0.23-1.27%

CVS told FOX Business it has invested roughly $1 billion in wage increases since 2021. This year, the company said, it’s planning to award tens of millions of dollars in bonuses “to recognize and thank our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.”

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The company said it’s also authorizing pharmacy teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing recruitment and strengthening pharmacy technician training, as well as introducing innovative tools to support workload and workflow.

FOX Business reached out to Walgreens and Rite Aid for comment. 

After the pharmacies file, the National Labor Relations Board will set a date for their union election. 

The Las Vegas workers will have their union election April 24. 

Shares of CVS have fallen 15% this year.

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