Retail pharmacy walkouts

2023 Q4 Rx Newsletter

November 22, 2023

U.S. drugstore chains are seeing an increase in brick-and-mortar closings.

Throughout 2023, there has been a notable trend of retail pharmacies reducing operating hours and shuttering their doors. Major drugstore chains such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid have announced additional closings of roughly 1,500 stores through 2024.1 The pharmacies that have remained open have experienced a decrease in their operating hours. While each chain has provided specific reasons for these closures and changes in hours, these adjustments continue to impact staff and consumers alike.

A young woman pharmacist arranges medicines on the shelves of the pharmacy

Walgreens and Rite Aid have attributed the reduction in operating hours to the national labor shortage.2 Community pharmacies have reported difficulties in filling open positions for both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, which they attribute to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Walmart has not only reduced the hours of their pharmacies due to the labor shortage but has also decreased pharmacist work hours, citing a decrease in drug demand and pharmacists’ requests for better work-life balance.3


Impact of decreased hours and labor shortage

According to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA)’s 2022 National Pharmacy Workplace Survey, work environment factors are contributing to pharmacy staff’s difficulty performing their clinical and non-clinical duties effectively.4 The top three issues noted in the survey impacting both pharmacists and their staff include:

  • Increase demand and harassment from patients.
  • Concerns due to insufficient and ill-trained staff.
  • Employer’s focus on production results (including immunizations).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on pharmacy operations, exacerbating existing issues and creating new challenges. Consequently, there is a decrease in available time for patient consultations, which in turn increases the risk of medication errors. This situation puts patient lives and pharmacy licenses at risk.

Pharmacist filling prescription in pharmacy

Pushing for change

The frustrations are now coming to a head with Walgreens’ pharmacy staff walking out on October 9, 2023, in a non-union planned action. Thousands of Walgreens employees across the U.S. participated in a walkout lasting through October 11, 2023, causing some locations to have to close due to a lack of staff. According to Becker Hospital Review, “organizers cited multiple reasons for the walkout, including burnout from understaffing and heavy workloads, patient situations escalating in violence, and the lack of mandatory training hours for incoming staff.”5

Experts speculate that if the workplace issues raised by pharmacy employees are not addressed and necessary changes are not implemented, the U.S. may see an increase in pharmacy walkouts and strikes in the coming months.



  1. “Drugstore Downsizing: CVS, Walgreens And Rite Aid To Close Nearly 1,500 Stores,” Forbes, accessed October 24, 2023,
  2. “Pharmacies are cutting hours and closing stores. What it means for customers,” USA Today, accessed October 24, 2023,
  3. “Exclusive: Walmart cuts pharmacist pay, hours while workload piles up,” Reuters, accessed October 24, 2023,
  4. “2022 National Pharmacy Workplace Survey,” APhA/NASPA, accessed October 24, 2023,