Local 727 Pharmacists Address Illinois Pharmacy Task Force, Urge Members to Support 8-Hour Workday Limit in the Interest of Public Safety

| August 16, 2019

Teamsters Local 727 pharmacists and representatives attended the final meeting of the Illinois Pharmaceutical Task Force this past Tuesday to reemphasize the importance of an 8-hour limit on the workdays of Illinois pharmacists’ working in the retail setting.  While the Task Force initially denied pharmacists the chance to speak during its June meeting, after two months of pressure from Local 727 the Task Force Chairman relented and specifically carved out time during its August meeting for pharmacists to share their views.  Local 727 members seized this opportunity to urge Task Force members to revote their previous motion and instead vote to recommend pharmacists’ workdays be capped at 8 hours.

Local 727 member and pharmacist Michael Trnka described the struggles pharmacists face when forced to work 12-hour shifts.

“By the end of a 12-hour shift, fatigue and hunger can make it difficult to focus on our priority—our patients and their safety,” said Trnka.  “If we end the 12-hour workday, pharmacists will be better able to focus on the wellbeing of those who we have dedicated our careers and lives to helping.”

Union pharmacist Melissa Henry urged the Task Force to remember the threat overworking pharmacists poses to public safety.

“Fatigue is real…. It slows reaction time, leads to lapses of attention to critical details, errors of omission, compromised problem solving, and reduced motivation,” stated Henry.  “The 12-hour shift does not benefit the patient or the pharmacist.”

Following Trnka and Henry’s powerful statements, Task Force member Tom Stiede motioned for a revote on the Task Force’s prior motion to recommend a 12-hour cap, which was previously voted before pharmacists were able to speak on the issue.  Mr. Stiede’s motion was seconded and a second vote was held on recommending a pharmacist’s day be limited to 8 hours.

“While we may not have gotten enough support in favor of the 8-hour limit at this time, our Union pharmacists’ experiences and views were heard—that in itself is a victory,” said John Coli, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of Local 727. “We will continue to stand behind and support our Teamster pharmacists because it is by elevating the voices of our members that we can direct lawmakers’ attention to the real-world problems facing pharmacists and affect real change.”

Teamster representatives submitted dissenting opinions on the Task Force’s recommendation of a 12-hour workday limit, as well as dissents with:

  1. The Task Force’s recommendation against the adoption of new language that would require at least one pharmacy technician be present at all times;
  2. The Task Force’s recommendation against the adoption of new language that would require employers to pay a pharmacist three times his or her regular hourly rate for each day when breaks are not provided; and
  3. The Task Force’s recommendation against the adoption of new language that would require pharmacies to provide pharmacists with a separate break room.

The Task Force’s final recommendations for modifying the Illinois Pharmacy Practice Act (PPA), along with the Union’s dissenting opinions, will next be submitted to the Illinois General Assembly to review.  Many of the initiatives Local 727 has pushed for were ultimately recommended by the Task Force, including:

  1. Requiring adequate staffing levels by,
    a)  disciplining employers that fail to provide sufficient personnel to prevent pharmacist fatigue that may interfere with a pharmacist’s ability to competently and safely practice their professional duties, and
    b) expanding the duties pharmacy technicians are permitted to perform after training;
  2. Mandating pharmacists receive uninterrupted rest breaks by,
    a)  requiring employers to provide all pharmacists working longer than six continuous hours per day with at least one 30-minute uninterrupted meal break and at least one 15-minute rest break,
    b)  requiring employers to provide all pharmacists working twelve continuous hours with an additional 15-minute break,
    c)  prohibiting an employer from requiring a pharmacist to work five continuous hours per day without the opportunity to take an uninterrupted meal break,
    d)  disciplining employers that fail to provide uninterrupted rest and meal breaks, and
    e)  requiring employers to maintain records of the daily break periods of pharmacists;
  3. Prohibiting activities such as advertising and solicitation by,
    a)  disciplining employers that fail to provide a working environment that, by a pharmacist’s judgement, is free of distractions that may interfere with a pharmacist’s ability to competently and safely practice their professional duties;
  4. Incorporating whistleblower protections by,
    a)  restating the whistleblower provisions included in Illinois statutes, and
    b)  specifying that anyone who reports violations to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation are specifically protected under the Illinois Whistleblower Act.

“It’s been a long, tough road to get to where we are today.  And while we now have support from the Task Force on many of the issues important to Local 727 pharmacists, our fight isn’t yet over,” added Coli.  “We must continue to stand united and together call on our state representatives to pass into law meaningful and effective pharmacy reforms.”

Local 727 will continue to update members as the fight for pharmacy reform advances in the Illinois General Assembly.

Members with questions should contact Local 727 Osco Business Representative Zach Frankenbach at (847) 696-7500 or [email protected] or Local 727 CVS Business Representative Melissa Senatore at (847) 696-7500 or [email protected].

Nothing in this article should be read as the union’s waiver of any legal argument, position or grievance(s), or as a waiver of any rights, arguments, or defenses under any contract, collective bargaining agreement, or applicable law.  The union does not forfeit its right to make any and all supplemental arguments.

Category: PHARMACY

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