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Walgreens walkout: Pharmacies close as workers protest poor conditions

Pharmacy employees at more than 500 Walgreens locations across the country are participating in the walkout this week.
Walgreens walkout: Pharmacies close as workers protest poor conditions
Posted at 10:55 AM, Oct 09, 2023

Walgreens pharmacy employees are walking off the job at locations across the country as they protest pharmacy conditions, sources say.

The workers — which include pharmacists, technicians and support staff — say working conditions make it difficult to safely fill prescriptions — and they're demanding change, according to CNN

More than 500 Walgreens locations are participating in the walkout, which is taking place from Monday to Wednesday. Some stores plan to protest for one of the days, while others will close their doors for all three days. There are 9,000 Walgreens stores across the U.S.

An organizer, who asked to remain anonymous, told CNN that prescription and vaccination expectations were set based on the number of team members each pharmacy should have, but in reality, staffing is much lower. Employees are falling behind and left to deal with angry customers. Additionally, training hours for new technicians have been cut.

"We don't believe that Walgreens is allowing us to give our patients safe care on a daily basis," the organizer said. "Walgreens isn't responding, they're not fixing those things."

A Walgreens representative told CNN that training has increased for new pharmacists but paused for "non-critical" trainings during the busy vaccination season.

In a statement, Walgreens acknowledged that pharmacists have been overworked.

"The last few years have required an unprecedented effort from our team members, and we share their pride in this work — while recognizing it has been a very challenging time," Fraser Engerman, a communications director at Walgreens, told CNN. "We also understand the immense pressures felt across the US in retail pharmacy right now. We are engaged and listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members."

Unlike union strikes, Walgreens workers did not have a central body to organize the protest, and relied on social media, emails and fliers to plan the walkouts.

SEE MORE: Kaiser Permanente workers drive largest US health care strike ever

The move by Walgreens employees follows similar trends in health care. 

In September, 22 CVS locations in the Kansas City area shut their doors in a planned walkout across a period of two weeks.

Heather Simons, who lives with pre-existing health conditions and must take her medication, was frustrated to learn her local CVS was closed.

"With that, I'm really proactive about vaccines," Simons told Scripps News Kansas City

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, they canceled all appointments," she said. 

While frustrated, Simons was understanding after hearing what CVS pharmacists are facing behind the counter.

"They are highly trained, they understand the risks that are being posed to the community with these demands on them so they don't want to make a mistake," she said. 

Last week, employees of Kaiser Permanente led the largest health care worker strike in U.S. history, as 75,000 union members fought for better conditions and pay.

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