UFCW Pharmacists Standing up for Patients, Making Change in California
Our grocery store pharmacists have for years been dealing with dangerous levels of understaffing. This often leaves a pharmacist by themselves with no support even as they are required to provide increased services to patients, including immunizations, in addition to their normal duties.
Some of our courageous pharmacist leaders are now bringing this situation to the attention of elected officials in Sacramento. In response to pharmacists’ concerns, our UFCW Western States Council approached Sacramento’s leaders and asked for legislative hearings so that we could bring the issue to light.
As a sign of UFCW’s influence in Sacramento, a new sub-committee of the State Senate focused on workforce issues in the Pharmacy industry was created. Senator Josh Newman from Orange County took the lead in scheduling a hearing at Cal State Fullerton October 2.
At the hearing, three UFCW pharmacists, Cheryl Butler and Keith Fung from Local 770 and Jean Drexler from Local 324, offered powerful testimony on the risks to both pharmacists and patients from under-staffing.
Bolstering the testimony of our pharmacists at the hearing, Local 135 Pharmacists Suzanne Bradbury and John Leuck submitted written testimony:
From Suzanne Bradbury: “Current work load is now causing excessive stress leaves among employees, as well as poor job satisfaction – leading to faster turnover rates. This puts extreme pressure on remaining staff to work double shifts, as training for new employees is non-existent. We are forced to train staff on-site which is nearly impossible while continuing to be responsible for maintaining daily tasks. It takes upwards of six months to train a technician to be independent in a pharmacy setting. Work flow is then impacted as staff turnover steadily increases because companies do not care if sufficiently trained employees continue. The days of loyalty, earning a pension and vacation weeks, and looking forward to “retirement” are long over as the reward has been removed and the companies reap the benefit of the “lucky to have a job” mentality.
“I now work three 12-hour shifts and use my four leftover hours to get more tech hours. This affects the income for my family, my ability to retire at a certain time, and shortens my time on the clock that would allow me to complete all the required tasks thrown at us. I know more and more people are working off the clock to complete daily tasks to meet demands and still avoid overtime.”
John Leuck: “A lack of proper staffing at Ralphs Pharmacies has created a situation that is potentially dangerous for our patients. The traditional workload for the pharmacist combined with an ever in-creasing clinical load including vaccinations, biometric screenings and MTM management combine to produce a very difficult work environment. Ralphs routinely staffs a single pharmacist, with no ancillary help, on the weekends and for up 5 hours of a 12 hour shift on Monday through Friday. It’s not difficult to see how this could create an environment where it is impossible to function as a professional health care provider.”
At the end of the hearing Senator Newman said, “If pharmacists are taking on an expanded role in health care, we have to take better care of our pharmacists.”
Moving forward, additional legislative hearings will be scheduled in other parts of California and our locals will be working with the Western States Council to develop legislation that protects pharmacists in our grocery stores.
Thank you to Suzanne and John for lending your voice for real change for all of our pharmacy members and our patients.
To see the hearing, go to: https://ufcw135.com/