In the past two weeks, a group of pharmacists from both Walgreens and CVS in Kansas City have staged Pharmacist Protests, citing an overwhelming and unmanageable work environment, according to reports from CNBC. The situation has now escalated, as pharmacists from Walgreens are spearheading efforts to reach out to discontented colleagues in the retail pharmacy industry with plans for a potential nationwide protest on the horizon, scheduled for October 30 and November 1.
CNBC has verified the ongoing protests through a CVS employee who initially led the Pharmacist Protests in Kansas City. Prem Shah, CVS’s Chief Pharmacy Officer and President of Pharmacy and Consumer Wellness, personally met with the striking pharmacists during the initial strike, pledging to improve working conditions. However, it appears that some CVS pharmacists remain dissatisfied, as they have scheduled another meeting with Shah later this week. If this meeting does not yield the desired results, they plan to collaborate with Walgreens pharmacists to instigate a nationwide strike.
Amy Thibault, the Lead Director of External Communications for CVS, responded to inquiries from Supermarket News, stating that the company has not detected any unusual activities such as unplanned pharmacy closures or pharmacist walkouts. She emphasized that CVS is actively working on developing a sustainable and scalable plan to support both pharmacists and customers, ensuring the continued delivery of high-quality patient care.
Walgreens, on the other hand, has opted not to comment on the ongoing speculation regarding the planned nationwide walkout.
Escalating Nationwide Protests
The impending nationwide Pharmacist Protests are expected to carry more weight than the recent localized walkouts. CNBC reports that rallies will take place in select cities, and demonstrations may extend to storefronts, potentially disrupting business operations.
Labor Unions and Unprecedented Workload
It’s worth noting that CVS and Walgreens workers are not traditionally protected by labor unions, but sources suggest that this could be on the verge of changing.
The already demanding workload of pharmacists has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to their regular duties, pharmacists have been tasked with administering COVID-19 vaccinations and tests. With the approaching flu season and the need for respiratory vaccines, the workload has intensified further. Many stores employ only one immunizer, making the task even more daunting. Furthermore, CNBC reports that the profit margins on vaccines are significantly higher than on regular medications, leading retailers to allocate more resources towards this endeavor.
Karen Lynch, CEO of CVS, addressed the issue at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Niguel, Calif., acknowledging that the strain of the pandemic and the heightened demand for COVID-19 vaccinations this fall have pushed pharmacists to their limits, contributing to the growing frustration and discontent among these healthcare professionals. As the situation unfolds, the pharmacy industry faces a challenging period marked by labor disputes and concerns over employee well-being.