CVS Pharmacists in Rhode Island Petition to Unionize


Nine pharmacists from 2 corporate locations in Wakefield and Westerly are seeking to join the Pharmacy Guild in an attempt to improve working conditions.

Pharmacy workers at CVS retail stores in Rhode Island have submitted petitions to the National Labor Relations Board to unionize with the Pharmacy Guild in an effort to improve the industry, WPRI reported.1

CVS Pharmacy Workers in Rhode Island File to Unionize / wolterke -

CVS Pharmacy Workers in Rhode Island File to Unionize / wolterke -

What’s the Issue?

The unionization push is being led by pharmacists at 2 corporate CVS stores located in Wakefield and Westerly, RI. Organizers of the movement said they hope to improve working conditions for pharmacy professionals and give patients the best possible outcomes.1

  • One of the workers, who choose to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation by the company, told USA Today there is simply no excuse for the largest pharmacy chain in the country to have unsafe staffing levels that can negatively impact patient care.2
  • The pharmacists filed to unionize with the Pharmacy Guild, a new guild under the IAM Healthcare union, which itself is part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
  • The Pharmacy Guild was created by several pharmacists who staged walkouts at Kansas City CVS stores in September. The guild is the only national union that organizes and represents pharmacy professionals.

Why it Matters

Retail pharmacists have long been speaking out about unsafe working conditions at major chain stores like CVS and Walgreens. In particular, understaffing has left pharmacists overworked and burned out, which makes it difficult to safely take care of patients and fill prescriptions.

  • The 2 Rhode Island stores, both of which are standalone locations open 24 hours, are located about an hour away from the CVS corporate headquarters in the Woonsocket.
  • The decision to unionize the Rhode Island CVS stores came shortly after an Omnicare pharmacy owned by CVS in Las Vegas filed to petition. That effort, being led by over 30 pharmacists and technicians, was the first petition to unionize pharmacy retail workers in the country.3
  • The unionization efforts are encouraging other CVS location and workers from different chains to follow suit. A spokesperson from the Pharmacy Guild told USA Today multiple CVS stores in Rhode Island and other states plan to file petitions in the coming weeks.2

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Expert Commentary

  • “My coworkers and I are unionizing with The Pharmacy Guild so we can have a voice to advocate for the best care outcomes possible for our patients,” a pharmacy professional active in the CVS Rhode Island organizing said in a release.4 “By unionizing stores in Rhode Island, we’re sending a direct message to CVS and the industry at large that frontline pharmacy professionals will continue taking direct action to reform our industry for the protection of our patients.”
  • “CVS is an industry leader, so there is no excuse for any barrier in delivering the safe staffing levels necessary for our patients to receive excellent, accurate, and timely care 24/7 in our stores," a Rhode Island pharmacist at 1 of the CVS stores told USA Today.2 "We’re unionizing in CVS’ home state so we can gain a seat at the table to demand that patient's needs always come first.”
  • “We believe the direct, two-way relationship we have with our colleagues is the best way to resolve workplace concerns,” Mike DeAngelis, executive director of corporate communications at CVS, said in a statement to Boston Globe.5 “We continually listen to our colleagues’ feedback, which helps inform our programs and policies.”
  • “We’ve seen a dramatic shift in the conditions inside community pharmacies since the onset of the pandemic,” Shane Jerominski, PharmD, co-founder of the Pharmacy Guild, said in a release.4 “The dedication shown by pharmacy professionals unionizing in Rhode Island now is a testament to their unwavering commitment to prioritizing patient well-being above corporate profits. These workers are telling CVS that it’s time for them to come to the table to address this crisis, and put the health and safety of pharmacy professionals and the patients they serve first.”

In Depth Insights

The petitions are not expected to be accessible by the public until sometime next week, but the Pharmacy Guild notified the Rhode Island CVS stores ahead of time.

  • The Rhode Island unionization is being led by 9 pharmacists from the 2 stores, but other staff—including technicians—were not part of the petition filing.
  • Jerominski told USA Today that, “These stores are in CVS’ own backyard, and they had an overwhelming majority of pharmacists on board to file. If that many pharmacists in CVS’s backyard feel unsafe and not supported by management, that speaks volumes about what the rest of the stores look like across the country.”2

Extra Reading

For more on this issue, check out these article:

READ MORE: On the Front Lines: Pharmacists' Role in Combating America's Opioid Epidemic

1. Crowley L. Pharmacy workers file to unionize at 2 CVS stores in RI. News Report. WPRI. April 16, 2024. Accessed April 18, 2024.
2. Le Coz E. Two CVS stores become the latest to join the national pharmacists unionization movement. News Report. USA Today. April 12, 2024. Accessed April 18, 2024.
3. CVS workers in Las Vegas 1st to seek unionization. News Release. Pharmacy Guild. April 9, 2024. Accessed April 18, 2024.
4. Ahlquist S. Pharmacy professionals at CVS stores file to unionize in Rhode Island. News Release. April 17, 2024. Accessed April 18, 2024.
5. Gagosz A. Two CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island file to unionize. News Report. Boston Globe. April 16, 2024. Accessed April 18, 2024.
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