Pharmacy workers across the United States have staged a three-day strike to bring awareness to unfavorable working conditions. Employees at CVS and Walgreens say they are being subjected to work in unsafe conditions due to understaffed store locations that have forced them to work daunting hours, according to Reuters.
Rite Aid was also reported to have strikers, per USA Today.
Some stores in New York City were forced to close as a result of the walkout, which began on Monday and has been dubbed “Pharmageddon” on social media sites like Meta's Facebook, where the strike was initially organized, the Reuters reports.
Shane Jerominski, a former Walgreens pharmacist who is one of the organizers of the walkout, told Reuters that the increased workload on pharmacists due to stores being “grossly understaffed” is unsustainable. Jerominski said that pharmacists and technicians have had to take on every role such as booking appointments and taking walk-in appointments for immunizations in addition to their normal duty which is filling prescriptions. The organizer said more than 5,000 employees are expected to participate but believes that number will increase.
“Some of these stores are so grossly understaffed at the moment and just bogged down with not only prescriptions but the amount of immunization appointments and walk-ins that they’re expected to do,” Jerominski said.
Additionally, the organizers were pushing for more stable hours and higher compensation for technicians, who find, dispense, pack, and label patients' prescription medications while working under the direction of pharmacists, according to Jerominski.
John August, head of healthcare labor relations at Cornell University, told the outlet that large firms have under-hired technicians and pharmacists at their pharmacy locations to save money following industry consolidation in the pharmaceutical sector, which has overworked employees.
“The pandemic just caused so much additional work and stress that the turnover rates (of staff), which were already very high, just became extremely epidemic,” August said.
He explained that these walkouts are non-union related which adds an increased risk to participating employees because they “don't really have a traditional union to back them up in their strike.”
A spokesperson for Walgreens told the outlet that the company has taken the necessary steps to help employees “concentrate on providing optimal patient care,” while a CVS spokesman said they are working to address their pharmacists' concerns are have been engaged in “continuous two-way dialogue.”
It is unclear how many people participated in the walkout and what store locations were involved.