Employee Free Choice supporters blast Rite Aid

Employee Free Choice supporters blast Rite Aid with new report on company's union busting at West Coast warehouse
Activists stage protests at Rite Aid stores in six cities

Vermont Workers' Center Press Conference
When: 3pm, Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Where: Outside Rite Aid, corner of Cherry Street & S. Winooski Ave, Burlington

Burlington, VT – Supporters urging passage of the Employee Free Choice Act took to the streets this Monday to back warehouse workers at Rite Aid's massive distribution center in Lancaster, California. They released a new Jobs with Justice report about how management there has aggressively interfered in workers' freedom to form a union.

The 12-page report: "Rite Aid, Oliver J. Bell & Associates, and the Case for the Employee Free Choice Act" documents how management employed union busters and violated labor laws. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board was prepared to charge Rite Aid with 49 unfair labor practice charges before the cases were settled out of court.

"It appears from this report that Rite Aid has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent its employees from having a voice on the job," said John Logan, Senior Researcher at the University of California at Berkeley whose research has focused on workers' rights. "Unfortunately, its efforts to thwart collective bargaining are only too typical of employers everywhere."

The actions were led by local Jobs with Justice coalitions in Boston, Burlington, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Portland, OR, Bangor, ME. The report was released at a major pharmaceutical industry conference in Boston where Rite Aid managers were participating. At some locations, Rite Aid workers' unions -- 1199 SEIU, UFCW and the Teamsters -- joined the support actions.

Despite the company's attacks, a majority the of the workers voted to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 26 in March 2008. But more than a year later, the workers have not been able to negotiate a first contract.

"Rite Aid's intense and longstanding interference in the workers efforts to form a union -- in which professional union busters have played a major role -- and its failure to bargain in good faith with employees are seen as prime examples of why efforts to pass the Employee Free Choice Act are so important," said James Haslam, Director of the Vermont Workers' Center, which part of the national Jobs With Justice network.

"If Employee Free Choice were the law of the land, the workers at the Rite Aid distribution center would have settled their contract by now. Access to mediation and arbitration on first contracts would prevent companies like Rite Aid from dragging their feet in negotiations to frustrate workers and defeat efforts to improve working conditions," said Traven Leyshon, President of the Washington Orange County Central Labor Council.

After the press conference, activists will leaflet at the Rite Aid 158 Cherry Street in Burlington (corner with South Winooski) in the to inform customers about the company's aggressive interference in workers' rights and the need for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to help prevent union busting.

Copies of the report may be obtained on the National Jobs with Justice website at http://www.jwj.org/freechoice/riteaid_report.pdf

In more than 40 cities in 25 states, Jobs with Justice coalitions unite labor, religious, student and community organizations in campaigns to win justice in workplaces and in communities where working families live.