Consumer / Employer

Two CVS Locations Make Moves To Join National Pharmacy Union Movement

Two CVS stores in Rhode Island have filed petitions to join the Pharmacy Guild, which is building a national pharmacy union. The locations are close to CVS Health’s headquarters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

SAN ANSELMO, CA - DECEMBER 04: A sign is posted on the exterior of a CVS Pharmacy on December 4, 2017 in San Anselmo, California. Drugstore chain CVS Health Corp announced plans on Sunday to acquire health insurer Aetna Inc for $69 billion. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Two CVS stores close to CVS Health’s headquarters in Rhode Island have filed petitions to join the Pharmacy Guild, which is building a national pharmacy union, one organizer confirmed to MedCity News on Monday.

The news was first reported by USA Today. One of the CVS stores is in Wakefield, while the other is in Westerly. Both locations are 24-hour pharmacies and are about an hour from CVS Health’s headquarters in Woonsocket. Each has about five pharmacists who are severely overworked, declared Shane Jerominski, a pharmacist and co-founder of the Pharmacy Guild.

“They do close to 7,000 prescriptions a week. You would think, ‘Wait a minute, they must have an army of pharmacists to do that.’ But no, even though they’re 24 hours, they don’t have that many people,” Jerominski said in an interview. “That’s a lot of responsibility for a handful of pharmacists and a lot of patients’ lives on the line.”

sponsored content

A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

He added that getting stores so close to CVS’ headquarters is a “slam dunk” for the union. The stores are the second and third locations to file petitions to join the Pharmacy Guild after an Omnicare pharmacy location in Las Vegas filed in late March (Omnicare is CVS-owned). The petitions at the Rhode Island locations only include pharmacists and not pharmacy technicians, though Jerominski expects them to join soon. The Las Vegas location includes both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, totaling about 31 people.

The petitions are filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency that enforces U.S. labor law. After a petition is filed, the NLRB could set a date for an election, which certifies or decertifies “a union as the bargaining representative of a unit of employees,” according to the NLRB website. If more than 50% of the workers vote yes to unionizing during the election, they can be represented by the Pharmacy Guild. The Las Vegas location has an election scheduled for April 24.

Michael DeAngelis, executive director of corporate communications at CVS Health, said in an email that the company respects its “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. We continually listen to our colleagues’ feedback which helps inform our programs and policies.” 

He added that since 2021, CVS has invested about $1 billion in wage increases. In addition, it is giving “tens of millions of dollars in bonuses” to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in 2024.

presented by

The Pharmacy Guild launched in November after a series of walkouts occurred in the fall among Walgreens and CVS employees. It is working to build the first national pharmacy union in the U.S. and was created in partnership with IAM Healthcare, a union of diverse healthcare professionals, including nurses, medical administrators and lab technicians. The Pharmacy Guild has several demands, including better wages and secure hours for pharmacy technicians, an improved workload for pharmacists and minimum staffing requirements. If changes aren’t made, much is at stake, Jerominski said.

“These are not poor companies that are trying to sustain a business,” Jerominski said. “It’s always about shareholder supremacy for companies like CVS and Walgreens and chain pharmacies. It’s never about patient safety or employee safety or the employee’s ability to keep their license. If the pharmacist makes a mistake, their license is on the line, their ability to practice and support their family for the rest of their career is at stake.”

He added that the Pharmacy Guild plans to file a petition for a pharmacy location every week or two weeks for the next few months, whether that’s against a CVS, Walgreens or another chain. The organization’s goal is to have “the majority of community practice pharmacies unionized in the next five years.”

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images