Two picketers — a woman working a crossword puzzle under the shade of a golf umbrella, and a man standing barefoot in the grass — held up a large banner that read, “Shame on Walgreens,” Wednesday, outside the Canby Walgreens on Highway 99E.
Neither of the protesters lives in Canby, nor do they work at the local Walgreens store. Their silent protest was part of a broad campaign by the Oregon branch of the Carpenters Union against Walgreens.
The banner, posted outside the Canby Walgreens this past week, is part of a regional labor dispute.
Protesters from Kahului, Maui, Hawaii to Billings, Mont., have been posting nearly identical banners in front of their area stores, claiming that Walgreens has been undermining local labor standards.
The picketers also hand out fliers that proclaim, “Shame on Walgreens for Desecration of the American Way of Life.”
John Eberhardt, one of Wednesday’s picketers, is a Portland resident representing Carpenters Union 247.
“We are doing all the Walgreens in the Portland Metro area,” Eberhardt said of the local union.
The council, which represents carpenters in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, is affiliated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters that is coordinating simultaneous silent protests at 48 locations in 12 states in the western United States.
“Walgreens uses contractors that pay their employees below local standards,” said Eric Franklin, the Kent, Wash.-based spokesman for the regional carpenter council. “We believe working carpenters should have a salary that can support a family and includes a pension and medical coverage. Walgreens hires contractors that provide none of those things. Often, contractors also utilize people who live outside the area.”
The protest may continue outside Walgreens for the next few weeks, he said.
Franklin maintains that Walgreens uses the lowest-bidding contractors to build or remodel its stores across the nation. “Walgreens may be able to point to specific places where they do the right thing, but they haven’t done the right thing across the board,” he said.
Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger said the company encourages union contractors to submit bids, and a large number of its construction jobs are performed with union labor.
“We require that all developers and contractors who build or remodel Walgreens stores offer their employees health insurance benefits and a living wage,” Elfinger said. “We require that our developers and contractors bid our jobs to both union and nonunion contractors, and when bids are competitive, we favor union labor.”