Brooklyn, NY – Workers at the first CVS store on the East Coast to unionize are fed up with the multi-billion-dollar corporation’s failure to sign a fair contract after more than two years of dithering — and for many, the reason for the foot dragging is clear.
CVS workers on the West Coast already enjoy a negotiated UFCW contract guaranteeing living wages, health benefits, paid time off and even a retirement plan. But when members of RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 working at the CVS store at 1070 Flatbush Avenue said they wanted a similar deal, they were rebuffed.
‘To be honest, everyone is tip-toping around the issue,” NYC Public Advocate Letitia James said at a Thursday afternoon rally held outside the Brooklyn store. “And the issue is simple: it’s called discrimination. 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.”
CVS pharmacy tech Debbie Henry-Haughton, thought she a a good job with the real growth potential, but after more than three-and-a-half years on the job, she says that hasn’t been the case.
“We want CVS to take this seriously because we all have families we have to take care of,” Henry-Haughton said. “In this neighborhood, everybody knows us. We’re like family. Walking down the street, coming in, going home — people know us. Say, ‘good morning, good afternoon.’ We always put the CVS customer first.” The West Coast gets what they deserve, so why don’t we deserve better, too?”
The ubiquitous CVS stores located throughout New York City help constitute the largest pharmacy chain in the United States, reportedly commanding more than $153 billion in annual revenues.
RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 President John Durso called CVS’ failure to sign a fair contract with Brooklyn workers a lack of “respect.”
“CVS is more than happy to take our money,” Durso said. “They’re more than happy to take union money; they’re union families that shop in their stores. But when we say we want to have a voice on the job, they say, no. [Well,] we say bullshit!”
CVS workers in Brooklyn unionized with Local 338 in August of 2015. The drug store giant immediately attempted to have the results of that union election scrapped, but failed. Local 338 was formally recognized as the official bargaining representatives for Brooklyn workers last year.
“I like the West coast,” Durso continued. “I like the people that live there and shop there. But they’re no better than us. They’re no better than our communities. They might look a little different than we look; they might have different values, to some extent, than we have; they have different problems than we have. But we are a community that lives together, works together, builds our families together. This is a middle class community of hardworking union families. All throughout the borough of Brooklyn, all throughout the five boroughs of New York, you have middle class, hardworking union families. And if you want our money, you give us the respect that we demand and that our people deserve.”
There are now more than 9,600 CVS outlets operating nationwide, employing more than 240,000 people.
Adrian Caddle, longtime employee at the store located between Beverley and Cortelyou roads, was supposed to be at this week’s rally, but bosses reportedly prevented him from attending the short program.
“When I learned that there were union members working at CVS on the West Coast, I was glad to hear about the guaranteed wage increase in their contracts that weren’t based on store location or individualized reviews,” Caddle said in a statement. “But there hasn’t been any relief [here] because CVS doesn’t take our requests seriously.”
Local 338 Secretary-Treasurer Jospeh Fontano said that Brooklyn workers just want to be able to take care of their families with decent wages and medical coverage.
“We’re here today to send one message to big boy CVS over here…do the right thing; give these workers the contract they deserve and stop dragging your feet at the table,” Fontano said.
The fight for good jobs in Brooklyn reportedly has the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“When workers organize and bargain collectively, they force even huge companies like CVS to listen,” hizzoner said in a statement. “I support Local 338 workers in Brooklyn as they fight for better wages, benefits and job protections.”
Dave Mertz, NYC Director of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union [RWDSU], said that CVS has a responsibility to bargain fairly with Brooklyn workers.
“They do not operate here out of the goodness of their heart,” Mertz said. “They operate here because they make money; they make money off of the people that live in this community. They make money off the people who work in this store. They make money off of every person that walks in and out of this store. And, goddammit, they have a responsibility to return some of that with a little bit of respect.”