Rite Aids wrong, workers tell shareholders

Original source:

Rite Aid workers at the drug chain’s distribution center in Lancaster, Calif., took their years-long fight for justice to New York City yesterday, where they urged the company’s shareholders to fire management’s hired-gun, union-busting consultants.

At a Times Square rally, the workers got a boost of solidarity from their New York union brothers and sisters.

At the firm’s annual shareholder meeting, Angel Warner, a veteran Rite Aid employee and member of Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 26, charged Rite Aid with “abusive, disrespectful and illegal treatment” before and after more than 600 workers voted to join the IWLU in March 2008.

Speaking to the 10 members of the company’s board of directors, 12 top Rite Aid executives and about 40 shareholders, Warner said the abusive treatment began in 2006 when workers expressed their concerns to Rite Aid management about mandatory, unscheduled overtime and unsafe working conditions. Said Warner:

When we told them we wanted to form a union to help us solve problems and have a voice on the job, the company went nuts and started attacking us.

She said the company began systematically threatening and harassing her co-workers. But the workers stayed together and voted overwhelmingly for a voice at work with the ILWU.

Since the election, Warner said, Rite Aid has launched a new set of attacks against workers, hiring a new team of anti-union consultants that formed a company-led committee in the warehouse to campaign against the union.

Warner asked Rite Aid CEO Mary Sammons to fire Oliver Bell & Associates, the union-busting firm that has been coaching managers on how to harass workers and undermine support for the union. Warner also demanded that the company begin negotiating in good faith to reach a fair contract with employees.

In a rally organized by the New York City Central Labor Council before the shareholders meeting, hundreds of union members signed a giant postcard with a message of solidarity and support that will be sent to workers in Lancaster.

Speakers said Rite Aid’s massive interference with the workers’ freedom to form a union and its failure to bargain in good faith are a prime example of why the Employee Free Choice Act is needed.