FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2022
LOCAL PHARMACISTS & ALLIES CALL ON RALPHS/ALBERTSONS TO PROVIDE ESSENTIAL, SKILLED PHARMACISTS WITH A FAIR CONTRACT THAT KEEPS PATIENTS SAFE
Long Beach, CA – Essential pharmacists came together this Monday and Tuesday with grocery workers, and community supporters to alert customers about safety issues pharmacists are facing and ask for support in their contract negotiations. Essential pharmacists and grocery workers, community supporters, and patients gathered at Ralphs in Long Beach and Pavilions in West Hollywood, calling for Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions to recognize their pharmacists’ sacrifices and dedication with a fair contract.
After months of negotiations, Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions have not come to a contract agreement valuing the hard work and sacrifice of California’s essential pharmacists even though the companies raked in billions in profits during the pandemic and continue to do so.
“Pharmacists’ work is not only helping patients get their medicine. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve been giving vaccinations and testing in addition to numerous clinical services such as prescribing birth control, HIV Prep and PEP, and travel health. We help patients stay safe and survive in and outside of this health crisis. However, many pharmacists are at a breaking point –we are overworked and undervalued,” said Rabih Kanj, a West Hollywood Pavilions pharmacist and bargaining committee member. “It’s time for us to stand together for a fair contract that will guarantee job security, especially for those who are part-time. We are essential to the community and should be compensated accordingly.”
To ensure California’s pharmacy patients continue to receive safe and quality health care, pharmacists deserve a fair contract that provides sufficient staffing, improves safety and security for both workers and patients, and offers a fair wage increase for highly skilled pharmacists.
“Throughout the pandemic pharmacists have shown up for our patients and our communities,” said Kristen Merritt, RPh, a pharmacist at Ralphs. “As essential workers, pharmacists have put themselves and their families at risk to ensure access to medication, provide Covid-19 testing, administer vaccines, and be an accessible resource for information, oftentimes working long hours understaffed or alone. Our most important job is keeping our patients safe. We ask for support as pharmacists stand together to negotiate for a fair contract that ensures we have the staffing we need to provide the safest and best care for our patients while also being able to provide for our own well-being and that of our families.”
Earlier this year, UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428, and 1442 went through coordinated negotiation to secure a historic new contract with Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions that provides higher wages, improved health benefits, guaranteed hours for part-time workers, improved store safety, and a secured pension for more than 47,000 essential grocery workers in California. The 650 pharmacists employed by these same companies undergo coordinated negotiation in the same manner, but their contracts are separate from the essential grocery store employees. After months of negotiations, pharmacists and their employer grocery companies remain far apart on a contract agreement.
“Our highly educated pharmacists are essential to ensuring access to quality health care for many Californians and have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to perform duties that were formerly only available in health clinics,” said Andrea Zinder, President, UFCW Local 324. “This increased workload has come with billions in increased profits for their company employers, but hasn’t been recognized in wage increases or sufficient staffing for the pharmacists. Overworked pharmacists put patient safety at risk. It’s time for the grocery employers to show pharmacists the respect they deserve as essential employees with a contract that values their hard work.”
“Pharmacists are the easiest, most accessible, and reliable way to get health care when patients are not able to communicate with a doctor. This is especially significant during Covid since our members are helping prevent the spread of the virus and making sure patients receive safe and quality services,” said John Grant, UFCW 770 President. “This is the reason why we are calling for Ralphs and Albertsons to take their workers seriously at the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract that shows the companies truly care about their patients and workers.”
A strike authorization vote was overwhelmingly passed by UFCW pharmacists against Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions earlier this year. A strike is always the last resort and the pharmacists are continuing to push for the companies to do the right thing and come to the table prepared to bargain in good faith.