UFCW wants Rite Aid on boycott list

Rite Aid Corp. may soon be on the Oregon AFL-CIO's Do Not Patronize List. Gene Pronovost, president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, is preparing a resolution for the September convention in North Bend that will do just that.

A Do Not Patronize listing would affect many union members in both the public and private sectors because many of their union-negotiated health care coverage plans use Rite Aid for prescription drugs. Pronovost made the announcement early to give local unions and their members "a heads-up" of what is to come.

Rite Aid, a Pennsylvania-based chain, operates union throughout California and the Puget Sound area in Washington. But after opening in Oregon (Rite Aid acquired the Thrifty PayLess chain in 1996), UFCW organizers have been escorted off its property, Pronovost told the Labor Press.

In November 1997 the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against a Rite Aid store in Florence when it laid off seven clerks one week after a majority of the store's 19 clerks and cashiers had signed cards to join Local 555. Those laid off supported the union and Local 555 ultimately lost the election.

Employees sought out a union because Rite Aid cut paid sick leave, froze wages, cut the employees' in-store discount, and raised the number of weekly hours they had to work before qualifying for health insurance.

"PayLess had an anti-worker agenda dating back to the days when Bob Tiernan handled its labor relations. Now Rite Aid appears to want to continue in that tradition," Pronovost said.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled against the union on the firings, but it did order the company to post for 60 days a "Notice to Employees" rescinding a policy established in January 1998 (just after the organizing drive) that had "prohibited employees from discussing or disclosing salary, benefits or other information about terms and conditions of employment among themselves."

The notice also informs employees of their right to join a union and Rite Aid's promise not to do anything to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees who want to exercise those rights. The notices were posted in all stores (approximately 4,000) nationwide starting last month.

In an unrelated matter, Rite Aid Corp. recently agreed to pay $50,000 to the State of Oregon and $60,000 to the State of Washington to settle charges of prescription and procedural errors brought by consumers.

According to state officials, complaints said that some stores were making errors in filling prescriptions, employees were poorly trained and not adequately supervised, and customers were not advised on taking drugs.

March 19, 1999 issue

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