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Working In These Times

Friday, Dec 17, 2010, 2:16 pm

Nationwide Action Targets Rite Aid’s Record on Workers’ Rights

BY Rand Wilson, AFL-CIO Communications Coordinator

Jen Doe from Jobs with Justice trying to deliver a letter from customers and community supporters to a local Rite Aid manager in Boston.   Rand Wilson

Rite Aid workers, union activists and community supporters mobilized for a national "Day of Action" on December 15th to focus attention on the company's culture of corporate greed and disrespect for workers' rights.  

More than 40 actions took place at Rite Aid stores in eleven states across the country along with an action by employees inside the company's giant Southwest Regional Distribution Center in Lancaster, CA.   

More than 70 UFCW Local 1776 members gathered in downtown Philadelphia to leaflet the public about how Rite Aid is trying to cheat its employees and the communities where they work out of good jobs that support working families.

In Massachusetts, delegations of Jobs with Justice supporters crowded into four stores to give Rite Aid managers letters of concern.  

"Most Americans are fed up with the way that corporate greed is wrecking America," the letter said. "Rite Aid is becoming an example of what's wrong with our country—when it could be an example of a well-managed company that treats its workers with respect."

United Students Against Sweatshops got many of its supporters to bombard Rite Aid's corporate Facebook page with messages of support for workers.  Read the comments (and maybe leave one of your own) at: http://www.facebook.com/riteaid

"Rite Aid executives are taking millions of dollars for themselves—then telling employees to pay for management's mistakes by gouging workers for health insurance," said Craig Merrilees, spokesperson for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that is assisting more than 500 Rite Aid warehouse workers in Lancaster, CA to win their fight for respect and a first union contract. "This kind of corporate greed is wrong; it's ruining Rite Aid and wrecking America. Citizens across the country are volunteering to help Rite Aid workers stand up and fight back against corporate greed." 

The nationwide actions are being sparked by a rash of poor decisions by Rite Aid officials across the country:

In Cleveland, OH, executives are trying to dramatically increase employee health care costs. The company announced plans to impose higher costs on Jan. 1 that could possibly lead to a strike.

In Lancaster, CA, Rite Aid executives stalled talks with 500 warehouse employees for nearly two years. Now officials are proposing to gouge employees by "marking-up" the cost of health insurance 28 times over the increases charged by insurers.

In Rome, NY, Rite Aid is closing a distribution facility that pays family-sustaining wages and benefits and provides workers with a voice on the job.  Work is being shifted to a nearby location that pays low wages with few benefits and no job rights.

In Pennsylvania, thousands of Rite Aid workers are trying to reach a fair settlement.

The December 15 "National Day of Action" was organized by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice and United Students Against Sweatshops.

Photos from a few of the actions can be seen here and here.  A video of the action at a Rite Aid store in Oakland, CA can be seen here.

For a copy of the community letter to Rite Aid managers, the flyer distributed at stores, a list of locations where actions took place and an "investor Alert" prepared by the ILWU and the AFL-CIO, contact Rand Wilson at rand.wilson@gmail.com.   

Rand Wilson is a campaign coordinator for AFL-CIO.

Rand Wilson is communications coordinator at the AFL-CIO Organizing Dept.'s Center for Strategic Research. He has worked as a union organizer and labor communicator in the United States since the 1980s. For more information about Wilson, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rand_Wilson

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