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Labor Groups Want Pharmacy Chains to Hike Wages as Well

Wage Hikes in Retail Sector Prompt Labor Activists to Accelerate Their Efforts

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Some labor groups are aiming to expand their efforts to increase wages and are gearing up to “take on drugstore chains,” according to a report from Reuters News Service.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and TJ Maxx have already announced wage hikes, and Target Corp. will raise its minimum wage to $9 per hour, according to multiple reports.

“The retailers, which were targeted by labor advocates and their allies, are also facing tougher competition for employees as unemployment drops to its lowest level in more than six years,” reads the Reuters report.

Drugstore operators, reportedly one of the “fastest-growing and most profitable areas in retail,” are next in line for labor activists to go after.

The report says that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union plans to ramp up its efforts to organize workers at Walgreens and other drugstores.

“Walgreens is the top U.S. drug retailer, followed by CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp,” reads the report.

New Brunswick is home to a Walgreens, and a Rite Aid, while all three chains have a large presence throughout Middlesex County, and much of New Jersey.

"Given the current momentum, we expect a faster chance of success in hiking minimum wage within the retail space which includes drug chains, than say the fast food sector," Marc Goumbri, a spokesman for the UFCW, told the news service.

Analysts told Reuters that “drugstores are a good target in part because of relatively high employee retention rates, which make organizing easier than in other sectors, including fast food,” according to the report.

"What jumps out at me is that drugstores are not only reporting strong profits but expanding at a rapid pace and making multi-billion dollar acquisitions," SEIU’s President Julie Kelly, told Reuters.

"That puts them in a position to lead here and raise the wages they pay."

An average cashier at Walgreens earns about $8.60 per hour, while a CVS cashier earns 10 cents more than that, according to data from Payscale.com.

But 88% of Walgreens employees make more than $9 per hour.  Payscale data shows that 90% of CVS workers, and 84% of Rite Aid workers make more than $9 per hour.

Kelly told Reuters that her union has not decided on wage demands, but supports the $15 an hour "living wage" endorsed by labor groups nationwide.

A Walgreens spokesman told Reuters the company "meets or exceeds all wage ordinances and its pay scale varies as it seeks to remain competitive in local markets," declining to comment on the prospect of wage hikes or the number of employees who earn less than $9 per hour.

The report says that the New York-New Jersey Joint Board of Workers United, a labor group associated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) could start wage negotiations this summer with the management of Duane Reade, a subsidiary of Walgreens.