Employees from CVS Health Corp and Walgreens Boots Alliance’s U.S. pharmacies have embarked on a three-day walkout, demanding improved working conditions and increased staffing levels within their stores.
The walkout, widely known as “Pharmageddon” on social media platforms, commenced on Monday and has led to the temporary closure of some stores in New York City.
According to organizers, up to 5,000 pharmacy workers are participating in the walkout, though the exact number of affected stores and participants remains unclear due to the absence of a union.
Shane Jerominski, a former Walgreens pharmacist and one of the organizers, cited severely understaffed stores as a major concern.
These stores require employees not only to process prescriptions but also manage appointments and attend to walk-in immunization requests, placing a significant burden on the workforce.
Similar strikes occurred earlier in the year when CVS employees in Kansas City staged a two-day strike, followed by another by Walgreens employees.
This time, pharmacy staff in New York and Pennsylvania, including employees from Walgreens’ Duane Reade stores in New York, are joining the protest. Some pharmacists plan to hold rallies outside CVS’ headquarters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Walgreens in Deerfield, Illinois.
Organizers are advocating for better pay and more consistent hours for technicians, who play a crucial role in locating, dispensing, packing, and labeling prescribed medications under pharmacist supervision.
The root of the problem lies in cost-cutting measures taken by large pharmacy chains, resulting in inadequate staffing levels.
According to John August, director of healthcare labor relations at Cornell University, the pandemic exacerbated the workload and stress experienced by pharmacy staff, leading to high turnover rates.
This walkout reflects a broader trend of labor unrest across various industries, as seen in strikes by autoworkers, writers, actors, and the recent record-breaking medical worker walkout at Kaiser Permanente.
Notably, these actions are emerging without traditional union backing, signifying a new form of labor movement.
Both CVS and Walgreens responded to the strike by emphasizing their commitment to addressing employee concerns.
CVS claimed to maintain an ongoing dialogue with its pharmacists, while Walgreens highlighted steps taken to help pharmacy teams provide optimal patient care, including centralizing certain operations to reduce pharmacists’ workloads.
Additionally, Walgreens recently opened its 11th micro-fulfillment center to streamline prescription filling and enhance customer interactions.