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Unions Rally In San Diego For Fair Wages, Health Care As Labor Shortage Continues

CVS and labor unions demonstrating in Point Loma, Sept. 6, 2021.
Nicholas McVicker
CVS and labor unions demonstrating in Point Loma, Sept. 6, 2021.

Pandemic employment issues are top of mind this Labor Day, from essential workers rallying for fair compensation to businesses still feeling the sting of staff shortages.

In Point Loma Monday morning local CVS workers and labor unions rallied for better pay and health care benefits.

Unions Rally In San Diego For Fair Wages, Health Care As Labor Shortage Continues
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"It’s a fight for our livelihood," said CVS employee Page Brendel. "It’s a fight to provide for our family right now."

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Workers said they have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, delivering COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, and they want CVS to fairly compensate them.

"We’ve been in negotiations for over five months," said United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 President Todd Walters. "We’ve had 27 sessions and we’re not freaking done — what’s the matter with them?"

UFCW Local 135 which represents about 13,000 San Diego and Imperial workers. Walters said CVS needs to "step up."

"This is the age of the worker right now," he said. "They are being rewarded all over for the hard work they do. CVS — for a company that’s union — they are the most anti-union company we’ve worked with. I was shocked that we had to be here doing this (demonstrating) today."

CVS El Cajon employee Michael McGee said he just finished working two double shifts before attending the rally.

"That’s because there’s no one out there to work — but we have to be there for our customers because we’re healthcare," he said.

McGee is hoping the company will also make its health care plan more affordable.

"They don't want to give us a pay raise that keeps up with inflation. They’re a health care company, and they wont give us affordable healthcare or help with staffing shortages so — we’re saying enough is enough," McGee said.

RELATED: Wages Are Going Up — And So Is Inflation. Consumer Prices Have Hit A 13-Year High

In a statement a CVS spokesperson said the company is still negotiating:

"CVS Pharmacy has a long-standing, productive relationship with the UFCW Local 135 — which represents many of our store colleagues. We’re currently negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with this union and we look forward to finalizing a new agreement."

While some workers are rallying for better pay, some businesses are having trouble finding people to hire.

"Business is going good. But just labor — that’s the main thing that we’re struggling with right now," said Angel Mendez who is a manager at Taco Kings in Del Cerro.

Mendez is hoping that they will be able to fill open positions in the front and back of house, now that extra federal unemployment assistance is ending.

"In National City we have four food trucks — we need a lot of people right now," he said.

Unions Rally In San Diego For Fair Wages, Health Care Amid Labor Shortages

Some argue labor shortages are not because people do not want to work, rather because not everyone is offering a livable wage.

"You know what I think what will change it if you pay people what it’s worth and you give them a health care plan," Walters said. "Our grocery stores that have really good, quality health care, we don't have a big shortage over there."

While pandemic unemployment benefits are going away, state stimulus checks are heading to Californians making $75,000 a year or less.