Monday, April 04, 2011

Rand Wilson: Rite Aid Workers’ Strike in Cleveland Sparks Nationwide Protest

Rite Aid Workers’ Strike in Cleveland Sparks Nationwide Protest
by Rand Wilson
In These Times

Last Friday, more than two dozen Rite Aid drugstores across the country had some unexpected visitors. Activists in 10 states converged on 30 stores on April 1 to protest the company's unfair labor practices and management's efforts to impose unaffordable healthcare costs on employees.

Workers at six Cleveland Rite Aid stores—whose employees are members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 880—have been on strike since March 14. After nearly a year of fruitless contract negotiations, the strike started because Rite Aid management committed dozens of unfair labor practices, violating members' rights through illegal threats, harassment, retaliation, surveillance and refusing to bargain in good faith.

Rite Aid resorted to these illegal tactics in Ohio as part of a nationwide effort to convince workers to move into a more expensive company health insurance plan. Many Rite Aid retail employees are paid such low wages that if their union accepted Rite Aid's plan, they would be forced to decline company coverage and instead rely on taxpayer provided benefits such as Medicaid for their medical needs.

According to UFCW Local 880's Carl Ivka, "Rite Aid wants to shift the cost of health care benefits onto the backs of the workers and onto the backs of the taxpayers in order to help recoup huge losses caused by poor management decisions. Yet the poor performance of the company executives has not affected their compensation in the least. The new president of Rite Aid received a compensation package that is higher than that of his predecessor, one that pays him $4.5 million, an amount that translates into $2,163.46 per hour."

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