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Support Your Local Walgreens Pharmacist Walkout!
Don't shop at Walgreens today, tomorrow, or Wednesday.
Today (and possibly for the next two days) Walgreens pharmacists across the nation will be walking out of their workplaces, demanding better staffing, better pay, and better hours, among other concerns.
Unlike other recent walkouts at Kaiser Permanente and various auto manufacturers, the pharmacists are not unionized and have no central organization. Rather, the walk-out has been organized on Reddit and other online spaces.
The workers say that their concern is as much for their patients as it is for themselves, arguing that understaffing makes it impossible to properly take care of them and get them the medications and vaccines they need.
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“It is our assessment that this Walgreens Pharmacy is currently unsafe to serve its patients,” reads a boilerplate notice to consumers found on the WalgreensRx subreddit. “We have asked Walgreens to provide adequate staffing and payroll hours to serve you in a safe way and they have refused.”
One of the main issues the pharmacists are dealing with is that they are often completely booked — and often double to quadruple booked — with vaccine appointments, which makes it impossible for them to do their regular work. It’s even worse for those who work in pharmacies that take walk-ins, especially because the walk-ins frequently lash out if they can’t get in right away.
Another issue is that the company sets their expectations for the pharmacies based on the number of employees the pharmacy is supposed to have, not on the number of employees it actually has.
Pharmacists are also dealing with shortages all over the place — specifically for the vaccines, Adderall and the weight loss drug Wegovy — that lead to patients being angry about not being able to get their medications, another thing it is hard to deal with when you are understaffed and underpaid and exhausted.
These problems are not exclusive to Walgreens pharmacists, as CVS pharmacists walked out for largely the same reasons earlier this year.
This also comes at a time when people are increasingly looking to pharmacies for non-emergency care. A study published earlier this year found that “58% of Americans are likely to visit a local pharmacy as a first step when faced with a non-emergency medical issue,” while “81% say they trust a pharmacist, nurse, or nurse practitioner to diagnose minor illnesses and prescribe medications to treat them.”
We can pretend this is just some kind of millennial/Gen Z quirk, but let’s be real — it’s because people can’t afford to see an actual doctor and don’t want to spend the amount it costs to see a doctor when they’re not dealing with any kind of great medical mystery. I don’t see why, logistically, in a world where they are not understaffed and overworked, a pharmacist shouldn’t be able to just renew prescriptions for those who have been taking the same prescriptions at the same doses for years.
An email sent anonymously to many Walgreens pharmacists in support of the walkout reads:
It’s about time we stand up and demand that Walgreens prioritize patient health and safety. The current regime has continued to cut hours while adding more tasks. This is unsafe for our patients and for Walgreens employees. I have spent hours explaining to patients why we scheduled them an appointment for a vaccine we didn't have. I've also given over 100 vaccines in a day all by myself while 600+ leaflets lay on the counter. 2 of my technicians walked out mid shift. My pharmacy has historically been top of the chain but these corporate demands are unrealistic and unfair to us and to our patients. I’ve asked for help and voiced my concerns just as you have. They call you all whiners and tell you that you aren’t “meeting expectations.” When will they meet our expectations? When will they give us the support to meet the expectations of our patients?
Workers are asking customers to help their cause by not shopping at Walgreens or trying to fill prescriptions for the next three days.
Walgreens says they understand the position the pharmacists are in and intend to do more to increase staffing. Somehow!
“The last few years have required an unprecedented effort from our team members, and we share their pride in this work — while recognizing it has been a very challenging time,” said Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, said in a statement. “We also understand the immense pressures felt across the US in retail pharmacy right now. We are engaged and listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members.”
Walgreens is “committed to ensuring that our entire pharmacy team has the support and resources necessary to continue to provide the best care to our patients while taking care of their own well-being,” added Engerman. “We are making significant investments in pharmacist wages and hiring bonuses to attract/retain talent in harder to staff locations.”
The hiring bonuses, by the way, include contracts stating that the pharmacists will stay for two years or will be required to return said bonuses. This puts those pharmacists in a bind when they end up hating their job because the stores are understaffed.
Businesses all over want to save money and increase their own profits by underpaying, understaffing and trying to make one employee do the work of three — and then act shocked when things don’t get done the way they want or shoplifting becomes a problem. It seems as though it’s still just not quite occurring to those at the top that they just are not getting away with this the way they think they should be able to. Hopefully, these walkouts will shake something loose. Eventually.