This week, numerous employees at Walgreens pharmacy nationwide are participating in a work stoppage, citing concerns that subpar working conditions are jeopardizing both staff and patients’ safety.
Starting on Monday and continuing through Wednesday, this walkout has the potential to affect hundreds of stores, according to an organizer of the protest who spoke to The Washington Post anonymously due to fears of potential repercussions from the company. It remains uncertain if any of the pharmacies have suspended their operations. Pharmacists, technicians, and support staff are asserting that mounting pressures on understaffed teams, including the administration of vaccines alongside handling a backlog of prescriptions, have reached an unsustainable level and are hindering their ability to fulfill their responsibilities responsibly.
Recognizing the significant pressures
The organizer stated, “As a pharmacist, even a single error, such as a missed letter or incorrect number in a prescription, could have fatal consequences.” In response, Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman acknowledged that the past few years have presented “unprecedented” and “challenging times.”
Engerman added, “We also recognize the significant pressures that retail pharmacy staff across the U.S. are currently experiencing. We are actively engaged in listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members. We are dedicated to ensuring that our entire pharmacy team receives the necessary support and resources to continue delivering the highest quality care to our patients while also taking care of their own well-being.”
He further explained, “We are investing significantly in pharmacist salaries and offering hiring incentives to attract and retain talent, particularly in locations that are more challenging to staff,” without providing specific details. Employees are calling for the recruitment of additional pharmacy staff, the establishment of mandatory training hours, transparency in how payroll hours are allocated to stores, and advance notice regarding staff reductions or job openings.
Walgreens pharmacy and CVS employees are not part of a labor union
The collective action, initially reported by CNN, was inspired by a previous strike by pharmacy workers at CVS locations in Kansas City a few weeks ago, according to the organizer. Since both Walgreens pharmacy and CVS employees are not part of a labor union, these efforts were coordinated through a subreddit for pharmacy staff.
According to Michael Hogue, CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, an organization representing industry professionals, workers at both retail chains have shared similar challenges. These include the struggle to hire pharmacists and technicians due to reluctance to work in a high-stress environment with limited support.