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CVS pharmacists at two Rhode Island stores vote to join new union

Two additional groups of CVS workers in the state also seek representation

Pharmacists at two CVS stores in Rhode Island voted last week to join The Pharmacy Guild, the new union backed by IAM Healthcare, which is part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The pharmacists at the CVS stores in Wakefield and Westerly, who had previously petitioned for union representation, became the second and third CVS locations to vote to join the union, following a CVS Omnicare location in Las Vegas. The votes are pending approval by the National Labor Relations Board.

“Unionization is the best tool we have to ensure our patients are receiving the care standards they deserve,” said Chris Eggeman, a pharmacist active in the organizing drive at one store. “With our union, we will have a voice to speak for our patients and our profession, and a legally enforceable collective bargaining agreement to ensure that voice is heard.”

A CVS spokesperson said the retailer respects its workers’ rights to join a union.

“If the vote results are confirmed by the NLRB, we’ll negotiate in good faith with the union to try to reach an agreement,” the spokesperson said. “While we believe the direct, two-way relationship we have with our colleagues is the best way to resolve workplace concerns, we have professional and productive relationships with our thousands of union employees and their union representatives. We’ll continue to work closely and collaboratively with all our colleagues to address any concerns they have now and in the future and are committed to providing a positive and rewarding work environment.”

The votes included five pharmacists at the Wakefield CVS and four at the Westerly store, the retailer said.

Meanwhile, pharmacy technicians and interns at the Wakefield CVS location and pharmacists at a second Westerly CVS store have also petitioned the NLRB to join The Pharmacy Guild.

“We are proud to join our colleagues in standing up for the improved conditions our patients deserve,” said Chris DesRochers, a pharmacy technician at the Wakefield CVS who was active in the recent organizing. “By forming a wall-to-wall pharmacy union, where all pharmacy workers will be covered, we are building a union with the power to bring true change.”

The unionization efforts follow reports of difficult work conditions at some chain drugstore locations, although both CVS and Walgreens said they have taken steps to address these issues.

CVS has invested about $1 billion in wage increases since 2021, and this year the company is awarding tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to its pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, the retailer said.

“We’re enabling pharmacy teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing recruitment and strengthening pharmacy technician training,” the CVS spokesperson said. “We’re also introducing innovative tools to support workload and workflow, enabling our pharmacy teams to better focus on patient care.”

Currently, less than 5% of CVS Health’s 300,000 workers are unionized, the spokesperson said. Many of those are members of the United Food & Commercial Workers, which represents the vast majority of unionized supermarket workers in the U.S.

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