CVS workers push for first union contract

Stephon Johnson | 3/22/2018, 1:12 p.m.
CVS, workers, first, union contract, Tish James
Public Advocate Letitia James

Workers at the first unionized CVS store on the East Coast want the wages and benefits their West Coast counterparts have won.

Last Thursday, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW members at the CVS located at 1070 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y., rallied for their first ever contract. The union is currently negotiating its first deal for union members but have accused CVS of rejecting their attempts the past few years.

“We are extremely disappointed and frustrated that CVS has shown a total disregard for the men and women working at the CVS in Flatbush from the time that these workers voted to unionize,” said John R. Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, in a statement. “There has been a precedent set by UFCW Locals on the West Coast for a strong union contract that provides workers at those CVS stores with living wages, paid time off and a number of other benefits that the company is denying the workers in Flatbush. This has left us to ask why California and Oregon but not New York?”

Durso concluded, “These hardworking men and women also live in a high-cost area and are no less deserving of the opportunity to provide for their families.”

The CVS workers on Flatbush Avenue voted to join Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW in August 2015. CVS officials attempted to have the workers’ vote overturned but were overruled by the National Labor Relations Board, which recognized the union in 2017.

“For almost 14 years, I’ve worked hard for CVS but never felt truly valued by the company, which is why my co-workers and I voted to join Local 338,” said CVS employee and Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW member Adrian Caddle in a statement. “When I learned that there were union members working at CVS on the West Coast, I was glad to hear about the guaranteed wage increases in their contracts that weren’t based on store location or individualized reviews. But there hasn’t been any relief because CVS doesn’t take us or our requests seriously.

Last year, after months of negotiations with CVS, more than 5,000 employees of 350 Southern California CVS stores and members of UFCW Locals 5, 135, 324, 648, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442 ratified a four-year contract with wage increases and better health care access. The new contract also included better scheduling practices, more layoff protections and a process for part-time workers to move to full-time based on seniority.

According to New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, there is a reason why the workers at the Brooklyn CVS are not getting the same treatment as their California counterparts.

“It’s called discrimination,” said James to reporters outside of the CVS last week. “We’re going to call it like we see it. Most of the workers here are individuals of color, and most of the workers here are women.”

When the AmNews contacted CVS officials for comment, we were directed to a representative who said the company will continue to negotiate with the Brooklyn workers and hope for the best.

“CVS Pharmacy prides itself on productive working relationships with labor unions,” said a CVS representative. “We recognize and respect the decision of these store employees to unionize, and we continue to negotiate in good faith with Local 338, including our most recent negotiation with the union this past Friday. CVS remains committed to providing all colleagues with comprehensive and competitive pay and benefits.”