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In CVS’s home state, pharmacists in 2 retail stores vote to unionize

A sign outside of a CVS pharmacy store on Feb. 7, 2024.Joe Raedle/Getty

WESTERLY, R.I. — Pharmacy professionals at two CVS retail stores in Rhode Island voted to unionize with The Pharmacy Guild this week, some of the first stores in the nation to do so.

The union’s victories, which took place at 24/7 CVS retail pharmacy stores in Wakefield and Westerly, are the second and third unionized shops with the guild in the last four weeks, and the first CVS retail stores, the guild said. It’s part of a broader, nationwide trend of pharmacists and technicians organizing across the industry, which is having strong effects in CVS’s home state. CVS’s corporate headquarters are located in Woonsocket.

Pharmacists at the Westerly store voted 4 to 0 and pharmacists at the Wakefield store voted 3 to 1 to unionize. A second store in Westerly, which is not a 24-hour location, filed to unionize. The pharmacy technicians and pharmacy interns at the Wakefield store also filed to unionize in the near future, which the guild credited to unsafe staffing levels that it says have reached “crisis levels for many pharmacies across America.”

“Unionization is the best tool we have to ensure our patients are receiving the care standards they deserve,” said Chris Eggeman, a pharmacist the guild said was active in the organizing drive in Rhode Island. “Our patients aren’t served by an unchecked profit driven health care system; quality patient care needs to come first.”

Workers at CVS Omnicare Las Vegas, where professionals fill prescriptions for nursing homes, were the first corporate store to unionize with the guild. The Las Vegas-based workers unionized by a landslide margin in late April, where 87 percent voted in favor of unionization.

The Pharmacy Guild is an initiative of IAM Healthcare, a union that organizes and represents pharmacy professionals across employers. IAM Healthcare is a national health care union within the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.


Workers who voted to join the union this week were not available to speak to the Globe on Friday due to their work schedules, according to Nicki Morris, a spokeswoman for the guild. According to a guild press release, workers began organizing in response to “declining patient safety standards.”

Morris told the Globe that workers and the guild have “not heard anything from corporate.”

A pharmacist assists a customer at a CVS Health Corp. store.Bloomberg/Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomber

On Friday, CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis told the Globe that it is the company “employees’ right to either unionize or refrain from doing so.”

“This is the first of several steps in the collective bargaining process,” said DeAngelis, who said turnover is the “lowest it’s ever been.” “If the vote results are confirmed by the NLRB, we’ll negotiate in good faith with the union to try to reach an agreement.”

Of CVS’s 30,000 pharmacists across the United States, approximately 700 are already unionized with other unions, said DeAngelis. For instance, in Chicago, some pharmacists are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

DeAngelis previously said the company has invested about $1 billion in wage increases since 2021, and in 2024, is awarding tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to “recognize and thank our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.”

Dr. Maurice Shaw, a community pharmacist and cofounder of the guild, said the union election wins highlight how pharmacy professionals are “willing to fight to prioritize patient care over corporate profits.”


Corporate chains like CVS and Walgreens have experienced severe shortages since the early days of the pandemic. In 2023, thousands of pharmacy professionals across multiple employers walked out to protest what they called “dangerous conditions” in a “Pharmageddon” that has sparked union drives across the United States.

Morris said the guild expects more stores to file petitions to unionize in the coming weeks.

“Each victory has been fueling more leads,” she said.

This report has been updated with a comment from a CVS spokesman.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.