As brick-and-mortar retail operations fight off online competition and a surge in shoplifting across the sector, 1199 members at Rite Aid are amongst the few retail workers who can rely on contract language to protect their jobs.
These members know they are providing a vital community resource, offering free health advice and convenient products, often in areas where healthcare coverage is poor.
This summer, Rite Aid members ratified a new three-year-contract including three percent annual pay increases, as well as holding onto their 1199SEIU Pension Fund, Training and Upgrading Fund and Child Care Fund.
1. Moses Brown is a Pharmacy Technician at a Rite Aid store on Southern Blvd in the Bronx. A Union Delegate, he was on the committee which negotiated the recent contract. He has been with Rite Aid for 15 years and recently moved to his current store after his previous one closed.
“We are very busy here—often filling more than one thousand prescriptions in a day,” he says.
“I always encourage people to be active in the union. It offers childcare and education benefits— right up to PhD level—and the security that even if a store closes, you will be guaranteed a place somewhere else.”
2. As a Shift Supervisor in charge of retail operations at the Astoria, Queens store, Angelique Huerta knows pharmacies are vital community resources—often providing customers, for instance, with helpful tips on skincare and other wellness products. “It is important that our value is recognized,” Huerta says. “I joined the bargaining committee because I wanted to fight for better wages for our families.”
3. Dipta Roy is a Shift Supervisor at a Rite Aid outlet in Hillcrest, near the Brooklyn/ Queens border. The store is located near the entrances to the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway—which may be one reason it is frequently targeted by shoplifters hoping to make a quick getaway. Roy routinely works with the floor manager, security guards and police to prevent theft and recover merchandise.
But last June, Roy was wrongly terminated from his position after he intervened to stop a shoplifter. Roy was reinstated a month later, however, after his Union representative intervened.
4. Margie Ford, a Pharmacy Technician in Astoria, has worked for Rite Aid for almost 30 years. “During the pandemic, I was sometimes scared to come into work.
But I also recognized how important it was for people in the community to know we were still here for them. We were friendly faces that could offer personal reassurance face-to-face.”
5. Recently, Hosneara Pramanik, a cashier in the Astoria store, completed her high school equivalency diploma with the help of the 1199SEIU Training Fund. She’s been working in the field since 1996, and joined Rite Aid when the chain took over Genovese in 2001.
“Now, I’m eligible for an 1199SEIU Pension,” she says. “I only have about five years left.”
6. Astoria store Staff Pharmacist Joanna Tsitsipatis is especially proud of Rite Aid’s vaccination service.
“We handle at least 50 walk-in patients a day,” she says. “People come in for tetanus, pneumonia and MMR vaccines, as well as Flu shots—and, of course,— Covid boosters.”
The training to qualify as a Pharmacist is equivalent to a PhD course. After students graduate from their six-year program, they are awarded the title of “Doctor of Pharmacy.”
“We can offer patients advice about over-the-counter remedies and about when they need to see a doctor,” Tsitsipatis says.
“Pharmacists can offer a level of primary care in the community which is free to patients and takes the pressure off local emergency rooms.”