Hundreds of 1199 Members Took to the Streets of Manhattan to Demand that Rite Aid Stop Slashing Healthcare Benefits

December 2, 2016

New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, spoke at the podium at Columbus Circle in a demonstration of solidarity with the hundreds of 1199 members and community allies who had assembled to march on Rite Aid.

"You’ve heard of the Grinch who stole Christmas, right? Well Rite Aid is the Grinch who is trying to steal your thanksgiving," de Blasio told 1199 members and community allies. "If I were the people at Rite Aid, I would be very careful about poking the sleeping giant of 1199, because 1199 don’t play.

“How does a Fortune 500 company try to stiff its workers? A company that makes so much money is trying to take away the basics from the people who work there.”

Carrying placards and swirling glowsticks, the marchers dominated several Midtown blocks as they braved the cold weather to reach the Rite Aid store at 8th Avenue and 50th Street.

Rite Aid workers have been in contract negotiations with the company since 2015. Rite Aid currently owes the 1199 Benefit Fund millions, and workers have lost the comprehensive healthcare benefits they and their families depend on. Rite Aid is also trying to remove future pharmacists from the bargaining unit, crushing the strength of their union.

At a rally outside the 8th Avenue store, 1199 member, Carlos Villalba, spoke to the crowd: “I’ve been with Rite Aid for 18 years and I’m here because I’m proud to be a union member and I want a union contract now!

“When I first started at Rite Aid, I got a kidney stone. It wasn’t a big deal. I went to the hospital and got it taken care of. A month later, I got a bill for over $1,000, which is about two month pay. When I went into work and told a co-worker my problem, he said: ‘Don’t worry, you’re in 1199, you don’t have to pay.’

“This is what we’re fighting for today!”

Elizabeth Muscarelli, who has also worked for Rite Aid for nearly two decades, said: “Younger members don’t realize how important the benefits are. I say to them: ‘If you don’t want to fight for yourselves, do it for me and the other members who really depend on the benefits.’

“I suffer from a serious liver disease, which comes from my immune system mistakenly attacking my liver. I will be retiring early as a result of my condition. I’m very glad to be able to draw my union pension.”