Uniting to Win Respect for Rite Aid Workers and Our Communities!
Highlights from the Dec. 15 National Day of Action…
Over the past several years, Rite Aid executives have made a number of serious missteps that have hurt the company’s business. The nation’s third-largest retail drug store chain has not made a profit in more than three years, causing investors to suffer heavy losses. Instead of working with employees to help turn the company around, Rite Aid executives are trying to make workers pay for management’s mistakes. At Rite Aid locations across the country, the trend is same: the company is demanding concessions from hardworking employees, while increasing executive compensation.
For example, while CEO John Standley recently doubled his own compensation, Rite Aid is:
- Proposing onerous health insurance hikes for workers in Northern Ohio, which may force them to strike;
- Seeking huge increases in employees’ share of health insurance costs in Lancaster, CA where, for 2 ½ years, workers have been trying to get a fair labor agreement; and
- Closing a unionized distribution center in Rome, NY and going non-union, leaving 400 employees without work.
The Coalition of Rite Aid Workers was formed to support employees at Rite Aid stores and distribution centers who are fighting to change the company’s culture of corporate greed. The National Day of Action, which took place on December 15, was the Coalition’s biggest effort to date to help win justice for Rite Aid workers. Hundreds of individuals, representing dozens of community groups, student organizations, church groups and unions joined together to make the event a huge success and tell Rite Aid, “Respect workers – respect our communities.”
In all, Day of Action participants organized more than 40 store actions in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Participants included high school students, long-time union members, retirees and other community activists. Twelve local Jobs with Justice (JwJ) coalitions helped organize actions and eight events were sponsored by affiliates of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). UFCW Local 880 held a big rally in downtown Cleveland. Workers at Rite Aid’s Lancaster, CA distribution center had a lunchtime rally in their cafeteria where they educated co-workers about the company’s healthcare proposal and sent a strong message to Rite Aid that workers won’t roll over for Rite Aid’s health insurance rip-off.
Following is an overview of some of the day’s highlights:
Albany, NY: The Capital District Labor Religion Coalition, a JwJ affiliate in Albany, turned out die-hard supporters of workers’ rights at the local Rite Aid store in zero-degree weather.
Atlanta, GA: Members of the Emory University USAS-organized contingent outside a Rite Aid store in Atlanta where they leafleted customers and talked with management.
Bellingham, WA: Dozens of activists, including International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members and retirees, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 843, JwJ and United for National Health Care, and students from Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College rallied at a Bellingham, WA Rite Aid store.
Boston, MA: Despite bitter cold, representatives of Massachusetts JwJ, the IWW, and the AFL-CIO leafleted at the Cambridge Street Rite Aid store in Boston. Actions also were held at stores in East Boston and Somerville, MA.
Chicopee, MA: A small but hearty band of activists, including members of NALC, AFT, Operating Engineers, and UFCW braved bitter cold to participate in the Western MA JwJ action at a Rite Aid store in Chicopee, MA.
Cleveland, OH: Frigid temperatures did not deter UFCW Local 880 and Cleveland JwJ from organizing a spirited rally at Public Square that included elected officials and Rite Aid workers. Later in December, State Sen. Michael Skindell (23rd District), State Rep. Mike Foley (14th District) and Cleveland Councilwoman Dona Brady (Ward 17) delivered a letter in support of Rite Aid workers to a local store on W. 117th and Lorain. The delegation also met with workers picketing outside the Cleveland store.
Los Angeles, CA: Students from USAS organized a dynamite action in downtown Los Angeles at the Rite Aid store on Broadway and Fifth Street. Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union also participated. The students and USW representatives did outreach to customers for about an hour before a delegation met with the manager to explain the reasons for the National Day of Action. In other LA area actions, ILWU Locals 13, 13A, 56 and 63 turned out dozens of members at Rite Aid stores in San Pedro and Wilmington, CA.
Oakland, CA: At the downtown Oakland Rite Aid store action Mayor-elect Jean Quan addressed the crowd which included representatives of community groups as well as unions. Mayor-elect Quan pledged her continued support for the Rite Aid workers and for workers’ rights everywhere. Picketers also were treated to a live performance from a team of professional actors who portrayed Scrooge, Marley’s ghost and Rite Aid CEO John Standley. All three later joined the picket line. Watch video of the Rite Aid action in Oakland.
Philadelphia, PA: In the Philadelphia area and Northeast PA, union activists, along with the Northeast PA Area Labor Federation, turned out to handbill and talk with Rite Aid customers about health care and other issues of concern to Rite Aid workers in PA and around the country.
Seattle, WA: (Below) Seattle Jobs with Justice (www.wsjwj.org) led a group of 30 supporters in an action at a downtown Rite Aid store. Participants represented a variety of organizations, including: ILWU Local 19, the Inlandboatmen’s Union, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, IATSE, Teamsters Local 117, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and the IWW.
West Sacramento, CA
A rally at the Rite Aid store in downtown West Sacramento attracted a lively group of 40 activists including members of the ILWU, SEIU-United Service Workers West, Unite-Here, AFSCME, AFT, CSEA, the Sacramento Central Labor Council, the CA Labor Federation, the National Union of Health Care Workers, and the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, as well as representatives of community organizations. The group leafleted customers and talked with the store manager.
Other events that took place as part of the National Day of Action included USAS-sponsored actions at Rite Aid stores in Highland Park, NJ, New Orleans, Providence, State College, PA and Williamsburg, VA. In addition, Jobs with Justice in Eugene, OR, Portland, OR and Richmond, VA attracted dozens of supporters of workers’ rights who leafleted and talked with customers and store managers.
In Aberdeen, Longview and Vancouver, WA, groups including members of the ILWU, UFCW, AFSCME, IWW and the Painters Union, visited their local Rite Aids to discuss health insurance and other issues of concern to Rite Aid employees with store customers and other members of the public. UFCW Local 1059 did the same at two store actions in the communities of Marion and Shelby, OH.
And, in Lancaster, CA, workers at Rite Aid’s giant distribution center organized a rally in their cafeteria focused on affordable health insurance for employees. Workers also “stickered up” displaying the message that provided the theme for the National Day of Action: “Rite Aid, Respect workers – respect our communities.”
The Coalition of Rite Aid Workers and its supporters will continue to work with Rite Aid employees and our community, student and labor allies to ensure Rite Aid workers and their families get the fair wages and benefits and the respect they deserve.
News and blog coverage of the National Day of Action:
- Workers Protest Rite Aid's Corporate Greed, Disrespect of Workers' Rights, by Rand Wilson, December 15, 2010
- Rite Aid Union Activists Mobilize, by Kathy Robertson, December 15, 2010
- Demonstrators to Rite Aid: Respect Workers, Respect Communities, by Rick Nagin, December 16, 2010
- Rite Aid Unions Unite Against Concessions, by Jenny Brown, December 16, 2010
- Nationwide Action Targets Rite Aid's Record on Workers' Rights, by Rand Wilson, December 17, 2010
- Rite Aid's Sticking It to Workers All Over the Country, by Lauren Kelley, December 22, 2010
For a copy of the Coalition’s “Call to Action,” the community letter to Rite Aid store managers, the flyer distributed to the public at stores, a list of locations where actions took place or an “Investor Alert” prepared by the ILWU and the AFL-CIO, contact: Rand Wilson at email@example.com.
Amy Willis is a Researcher at the ILWU.