Some metro Walgreens employees join nationwide walkout
Some Walgreens Pharmacy staff, including in the Twin Cities metro, began a three-day walkout on Monday morning that was expected to impact roughly 500 stores across the country.
The protest of “unsafe working conditions” follows a walkout by CVS employees in Kansas City two weeks ago, that ended in a promise from the company to improve staffing.
A “small number” of Walgreens pharmacies were “experiencing disruptions,” according to the latest update from a senior-level spokesperson on Monday afternoon.
“We are working to return these pharmacies to regular operations as quickly as possible. Nearly all of our 9,000 locations continue to serve our patients and customers,” the statement read.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was able to confirm that at least two pharmacy technicians at the Plymouth store on Vicksburg Lane called out of work on Monday morning.
One of the two employees, who both personally confirmed their absence, was Erin Prizant. According to her, the two of them account for half of the store’s full-time technicians.
In an interview at her home in Wayzata, Prizant said she has no qualms with local management; it’s her corporate employer she had a message for.
“It’s because the working conditions have gotten too severe for a lot of us. A lot of us are concerned about patient safety and employee safety at this point,” she said.
The Vicksburg Lane pharmacy confirmed it had walkouts but wouldn’t say how many, only relaying that they were still able to staff as usual.
‘Staffed as usual,’ according to Prizant, is not enough to fill the 300-400 prescriptions expected each day.
“That’s easily over six hours of work uninterrupted. And with our budget right now, most days we have one pharmacist and two technicians, if we’re lucky three,” she said.
Prizant considers herself a veteran with six years of experience at the branch.
“It’s a very high turnover job, a lot don’t last six months,” she continued, noting that this leaves less experienced staff increasingly responsible for more.
Prizant, and two other local Walgreens employees who wished to remain anonymous, said the biggest new hurdle just this fall has been a new expectation from corporate to complete two vaccine appointments every 15 minutes. Previously it was one appointment, and all three sources said it’s not enough time to get the job done safely.
“I was so exhausted that I accidentally gave myself a needle stick,” Prizant shared. “Fortunately, I’m extremely unlikely to contract anything. But I mean, this is going to be impacting me for six months of my life,” she continued, referring to the amount of time in between follow-up HIV testing.
After no explanation for the increase in productivity expectations and weeks of falling behind, she said the branch is supposed to go back to one appointment every 15 minutes in November.
In the meantime, Prizant was hoping the walkout will show corporate what she said is a need to increase the staffing budget and transparency from the top down.
After being asked why she’s stuck around rather than seeking out another job, Prizant said, “It’s because I actually really love working in a retail pharmacy. I love my job, because I would have left otherwise.”
The Walgreens spokesperson said the company “understand[s] the immense pressures felt across the U.S. in retail pharmacy right now.”
“We are engaged and listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members. We are committed to ensuring that our entire pharmacy team has the support and resources necessary to continue to provide the best care to our patients while taking care of their own wellbeing,” the email statement continued, adding, “We are making significant investments in pharmacist wages and hiring bonuses to attract/retain talent.”
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS called around to several other metro Walgreens Pharmacy locations on Monday, none of which were willing to confirm or deny anyone walked out.