2003-12-12 / Community

Union Launches Campaign To Represent Duane Reade Workers

Union Launches Campaign To Represent Duane Reade Workers

The union that represents workers in department stores and retail outlets throughout the city has started a campaign to unionize the workers at Duane Reade outlets, including the drug store at Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive.

ATC/Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW has launched its "Dwayne Greed Campaign," calling for an end to Duane Reade’s unfair labor practices, and demanding the giant retailer bargain a contract with the union representing 2,600 employees at 142 stores in New York.

"Duane Reade hasn’t listened to its employees, it hasn’t listened to the
union, and it hasn’t listened to the law," John Durso, Local 338 president said.  "Now we’ll see if Duane Reade and CEO Anthony Cuti will listen to its consumers - the people of New York.

"We’re asking New Yorkers to join our campaign and contact New York’s greediest employer, or as we call them Dwayne Greed, and tell them to treat their workers with dignity and respect, and to get back to the bargaining table." Durso continued.  The Dwayne Greed campaign urges all New Yorkers to join the fight by contacting Duane Reade and telling them that they will not stand for this unfair treatment of workers. "We will not stand for workers being abused," Durso said. "Workers rights are human rights, so all New Yorkers should feel compelled to get involved and stand together as working people to stop this ill-treatment of decent, hardworking people in our city."

Local 338 is urging all New Yorkers to go to the website www.dwaynegreed.com to learn more about Duane Reade’s method of threats, lies and intimidation of its employees, and for information about how to join the Dwayne Greed campaign. Local 338 will also be distributing Dwayne Greed shopping bags outside various Duane Reade stores in the city and shoppers are asked to use them when holiday shopping this month.  Several demonstrations and events are also planned.

"If anyone in New York doesn’t think this issue affects them, consider this: a report recently released by Assemblyman Jeff Klein found that Duane Reade has the highest average price for prescription drugs in the city," Durso said.  "Not only is Duane Reade a bad employer, Duane Reade is also a bad neighbor to all New Yorkers."  The report, titled "Filled Prescriptions, Empty Pockets, An Analysis of Prescription Drug Price Disparities at NYC Pharmacy Chains," also found that stores in the poorest zip codes and in heavily minority zip codes charged the highest prices.

Numerous political and labor leaders have already joined the campaign,
including U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner and Assemblyman Jeff Klein.

Both participated in a demonstration outside Duane Reade headquarters on Thursday, where the union was turned away as they tried to deliver 40,000 cards signed by New Yorkers calling for the company to negotiate a contract with the union.

Despite a landslide vote where 93 percent of workers voted in favor of
affiliation with Local 338, the company has refused to acknowledge the union and to negotiate a contract.  Duane Reade employees have been without a contract for 22 months.  Duane Reade employees are among the lowest paid in the industry, are forced to pay more for significantly reduced health care coverage, and receive no pension benefits.  This will also be the third year in a row that Duane Reade employees will be denied a holiday bonus, while company executives once again will be taking home sizable bonuses.

The National Labor Relations Board has issued numerous complaints against Duane Reade, including that the company has not provided ATC/Local 338 with an up-to-date list of employees; harassed the union’s agents and initiated police action against the agents; interfered with, restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of their right to union activity; discriminated in regards to hiring and in terms of employment relating to union activity; refused to bargain with the union; and circulated a petition to decertify ATC/Local 338 as the union representing employees.

Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW represents more than 16,500 supermarket, dairy and healthcare workers in New York. It is an affiliate of the 1.4
million-member United Food and Commercial Workers Union, AFL-CIO.

Calls to the Duane Reade corporate offices for comment and to corroborate the facts set forth by the union went unreturned.


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