Boycott Watch  
March 22, 2011
Rite Aid Pharmacy Employees Strike, Boycott Themselves
Summary: By telling your customers to shop elsewhere, you are eliminating the need for your own job.
    Boycott Watch is very careful before taking sides in a boycott. Per our policy, we only take a stance when boycotts which are based on false information, anti-American or illegal. In this case, there is a boycott which is flat out stupid that borders on illegality.

    Boycott Watch believes in the right to strike. Employees have the right to stand up to what they perceive as unjust. While not all Rite Aid Pharmacy locations are unionized, a strike is underway at several stores in the Cleveland, Ohio area. This strike is unusual because the strikers are holding up signs with the words "Don't Shop," a call to boycott.
Rite Aid striker
    According to the law, unions may not call for boycotts against businesses to force them to join a union. When unions use boycotts, it is usually against companies which have broken the unions, or perhaps after a plant closing to open a non-unionized facility in another country. In this case, Rite Aid has non-union stores in the same city, and the boycott calls are to get all customers to shop at other chains, including avoiding the non-unionized Rite Aid stores, thus it straddles the law pertaining to union boycotts. For the most part, however, businesses facing union strikes do not evoke this law in fear of upsetting all union members, their families and supporters. While it is not in a businesses best interest to alienate their customer base, federal prosecutors can step in, even after a strike ends.

    The disturbing part of this case is the fact that store employees are telling their own customers to shop elsewhere. That may be a feel good measure during a strike; however, by driving away customers, the picketers are also driving away the need for their jobs after the strike. Fewer customers mean fewer employees will be needed to serve the remaining customers. And, since Rite Aid has been in financial pain, it is not only the wrong time to demand more from the retailer, but it also puts the striking stores at the top of the stores to close list - Unions may win concessions in a contract negotiations, but if the company can't afford it, the company may close the stores, eliminating the union jobs.

    The strikers are sending three messages to Rite Aid. First, they are saying they are not partners in prosperity, which the stores need to thrive, thus hire people. Second, the strikers are declaring themselves ineligible for promotion since no manager will promote anyone who does not look out for their employer. Third, and most importantly, any employee who tells customers to shop elsewhere for products their own store carries is being 100% disloyal. The strikers are not only saying they cannot be trusted to look out for the best interests of the company, but are more concerned with improving the bottom line of the competition. These strikers are disloyal and can never be trusted to act for the betterment of the company they work for, the same company which gives them paychecks in a down economy.

    This strike is also an exercise in stupidity. According to one unionized Rite Aid employee who is breaking the strike and wishes to remain anonymous, "The non-unionized stores have better (employee) benefits, and the union is not paying me to strike." Rite Aid union members have already past the point where they cannot possibly make up the lost wages of the strike via a pay increase. The only people who can possibly benefit from this strike is the union, the staff of which are being paid from money taken out of the paychecks of the people they are poorly representing, and without regard of the lost wages of their members. The wrong people, therefore, are under fire by these union members.

    Freedom of speech has limitations. You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater, and you cannot tell your own customers to shop elsewhere and still expect to keep your job. The striking Rite Aid employees and especially their union leadership need to be fired.

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