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HomeGeneralPharmacy Unionizing Efforts Gain Momentum As CVS Omnicare in Las Vegas Seeks...

Pharmacy Unionizing Efforts Gain Momentum As CVS Omnicare in Las Vegas Seeks To Join

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A nationwide effort to unionize pharmacists has recorded a significant milestone. The effort, which aims to unionize workers against worsening conditions inside pharmaceutical chains like CVS and Walgreens, saw dozens of pharmacies file a federal petition seeking the right to join The Pharmacy Guild.

A picture of pharmacy unionization advocates
Source: Pinterest

The petition, which lawyers say will become public on Monday, April 1, 2024, puts CVS on notice. It notifies the chain that workers in its Omnicare pharmacy in Las Vegas intend to hold an election. They want to determine whether the newly formed guild should represent them in labor negotiations with the Fortune 500 company.

Nearly 30 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work at Omnicare Nevada, filling prescriptions for nursing homes across the state. However, it is not a public-facing pharmacy like most of the chain’s 9,600 locations. According to the election organizers, they need a simple majority to win and are confident they have the numbers.

“It’s time to move away from the system of abuse and intimidation,” said Bled Tanoe, an Oklahoma pharmacist. Tanoe is also a founding member of The Pharmacy Guild, which has attracted hundreds of people to its booth and many at the American Pharmacists Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

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Tanoe said the guild anticipates pushback from CVS as its employees prepare for the election. Furthermore, he noted they could have the election within the next few months. However, the National Labor Relations Board oversees union activity and must first seek an agreement. 

The NLRB must seek an agreement between the employees and their employer before green-lighting the election. Although the guild claims to have filed a petition, CVS said it had not seen it. “While we haven’t had an opportunity to review any petition,” said Michael DeAngelis, CVS’ executive director of corporate communications. 

“We respect our employees’ right to either unionize or refrain from doing so.” He continued, “We believe the direct, two-way relationship we have with our colleagues is the best way to resolve workplace concerns.” DeAngelis added, “We continually listen to our colleagues’ feedback, which helps inform our programs and policies.”

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They formed the Pharmacy Guild in 2023 after several high-profile walkouts by CVS and Walgreens pharmacists. According to sources, they decried “untenable working conditions that jeopardize patient safety.” Besides the terrible working conditions, community pharmacists warned about short staffing levels.

With the rising pressure of corporate performance goals, they say it overworks a dwindling number of workers. They claim it pushes them to handle an ever-increasing number of prescriptions, vaccinations, and other tasks. That pressure intensified during the pandemic when pharmacists administered back-to-back COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.

While speaking to USA Today, Shane Jerominski, a California pharmacist, said the pharmaceutical companies didn’t listen to their pleas. He said pharmacists “have been begging for help, but CVS and Walgreens are so big and so powerful.”

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Therefore, he said the pharmacists feel unheard. He added, “That’s why we formed: There is power in numbers.” Michael Hogue, CEO and executive vice president of the American Pharmacists Association, said the unionization effort comes as little surprise.

He said pharmacists are increasingly losing their professional autonomy amid the rapid consolidation and corporatization of the industry. “They’re frustrated and burned out,” Hogue said.

“They’re looking for a way to recapture their voice.” According to reports, the pharmacy unionization effort is part of a national resurgence in organized labor across multiple industries.

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