Africa Image Live


Grab the widget  Tech Dreams

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Unions call CVS negligent, racist


Union-organized protesters accused CVS of practices that hurt minorities. CVS denied the allegation, saying the protest is related to union issues.

   Deborah Dion stands next to a table with expired baby products and medications. Protesters said they found these expired products at CVS pharmacies.
Deborah Dion stands next to a table with expired baby products and medications. Protesters said they found these expired products at CVS pharmacies. 


Next to a table filled with expired pain medicine, cough syrup and baby formula, a small group of South Florida residents decried practices by the CVS drugstore chain as negligent and racist.

The protesters, gathered together by a consumer group organized by a union alliance called Change to Win, were also upset about condoms being locked up at some CVS stores, including the one where they had gathered, 4800 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.

In a statement, CVS said Change to Win has threatened to disparage the company since early 2007 unless it agrees to waive employees' rights to vote in confidential union elections.

''This right has been guaranteed by federal law for decades, and we believe our employees should retain the freedom to exercise this right,'' spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in the statement.

At 33 of CVS's 200 South Florida stores, Change to Win said it found expired products. At 14 of the stores, condoms were in locked cases. The survey was a follow-up to the discovery of expired infant formula and medicines at 666 stores nationwide last year.

Change to Win said the stores with troubled goods or locked-up condoms were in CVS stores in zip codes dominated by residents who are minorities.

''We're out here today to tell CVS to respect the South Florida community and its healthcare needs,'' said Renaye Manley, organizing director for Interfaith Worker Justice, a workers rights group. ``When it's 11 at night and your baby needs Tylenol, you're not checking to see if it's expired.''

Change to Win said it is targeting CVS because it is the nation's largest drugstore chain and employs many of its members. Also, its mail-order pharmacy is used by healthcare plans for millions of its members.

''This is offensive to our members who go to work and work hard every day, including those who work in the stores,'' Change to Win Executive Director Chris Chafe said. ``We're quite sure as an industry leader they can, should and must do better.''

Chafe said the group has no active campaign related to CVS workers.

But the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, now being debated in Congress, would make it a lot easier to form unions by giving workers the right to unionize if a majority of employees at a company signed cards in agreement. Businesses are generally opposed to the expansion of unions and opponents contend the bill would end secret ballots in union elections.

CVS also said that it has a policy to remove products from shelves before they expire, but no process so labor intensive is immune from error and typical CVS stores have more than 100,000 items on the shelves.

This week's protest in Miami follows similar events in Houston, Philadelphia and San Diego.

The New York State attorney general has filed suit against the Woonsocket, R.I.-based drugstore company because of expired products found at stores across that state.

CVS said that at stores where condoms have been heavily shoplifted, those products are kept in a locked display.

But even at those location, some condoms are available for customers to buy without asking for help from employees, although Change to Win said they found some stores with unlocked condoms.

Santiago Leon, co-chair of Healthcare for All -- Florida, said keeping condoms locked up means inconveniencing customers, which could be especially harmful in a community where rates of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS are especially high.

''It's not a pleasant experience,'' he said, and could dissuade customers from trying to buy protection in the future.

No comments:

AllAfrica News: Latest

Pambazuka News :Comment & analysis