An estimated 4,500 participating in CVS, Walgreens walkouts: 5 updates

Organizers estimate as many as 4,500 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens are participating in a three-day walkout that began Oct. 30.

"Pharmageddon" is the nickname for the planned walkout affecting an unknown number of locations. There's been a lack of firm numbers to demonstrate the scope of the walkouts, as pharmacists employed by the retail pharmacy chains are not unionized. However, organizers told USA Today they estimate about 4,500 people may be participating in the protests, which they say are in response to their employers' unreasonable performance demands, understaffing, limited resources and patient safety concerns. 

"The staffing levels are just unsafe," a pharmacist at a Walgreens in Washington, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told USA Today. "I recently had to work multiple doubles in a row. By the end of last Friday morning, I could barely think straight and caught myself making several errors I would have never made otherwise, like verifying the prescription with the wrong name. I knew it was due to exhaustion and overwork." 

Four more updates: 

  • The pharmacist who spoke to USA today said his pharmacy was closed Oct. 30 due to the walkouts, and that he knew of one other pharmacy in the area that was also closed. Shane Jerominski, PharmD, an independent pharmacist and walkout organizer, said he knows of at least 25 Walgreens locations that were closed. Meanwhile, a Walgreens spokesperson said only two of its 8,700 pharmacies were affected. In comments to news outlets, CVS and Rite Aid also say there have been zero to minimal disruptions. 


  • Dr. Jerominski and another organizer previously told CNBC they are pushing for unionization of pharmacy staff. 


  • The American Pharmacists Association issued a statement in support of the planned walkouts, calling for employers to "act swiftly on these issues" with long-term solutions. 


  • The latest protests by retail pharmacy employees mark the third such effort in the past month. In late September, at least 22 CVS pharmacies in the Kansas City metro area were temporarily closed after pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and support staff called out of work. The locations reopened Sept. 28 after CVS executives flew to Kansas City and agreed to provide additional staffing and paid overtime. Walgreens pharmacy workers also organized a walkout earlier this month. 

An organizer of the previous Walgreens walkout told USA Today he gives the company "some credit" for actions taken after the walkout, which included launching a listening tour and allowing understaffed stores to limit the number of vaccination appointments that can be scheduled. 

In a statement to The Boston Globe Oct. 30, CVS Health said it is making "targeted investments to address their key concerns, including enabling teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitment and hiring," and improving technician training. 

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