Snyders Drug Stores closing; 150 to lose their jobs

Snyders Drug Stores, a fixture in Minnesota's retail landscape since the 1940s, announced it will cease operations Jan. 21, closing eight stores in the East Metro area and leaving 150 workers without jobs.

Snyders drug store
Snyders was the only unionized drug store in the Twin Cities.

Photo by Michael Moore

The union that represents those workers, Local 789 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, is scrambling to soften the blow to its members.

"We are saddened, angry and committed in making sure that our members are properly treated during the closure," Local 789 President Don Seaquist said.

So far, though, the union is not getting much help from Snyders in that effort.

Upon learning of Snyders' plans, the union immediately asked the company to honor the WARN Act, a federal law that requires employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of mass layoffs or closings. The union also asked for the company's assistance in providing workers a bridge to health care benefits.

According to Local 789's Bernie Hesse, Snyders denied both requests.

Hesse said management told the union the WARN Act doesn't apply to small retail outfits - an opinion Hesse admits has some precedence - and said it was not required to extend COBRA benefits, supplemental health insurance workers can acquire after they are laid off, to the union's members because it is ceasing operations permanently.

While Snyders may be in the right legally, Hesse said, "on both issues, we're saying it's the employer's moral obligation to give these workers notice in a timely way."

The decision to close Snyders, which is owned by the Katz Group, a Canadian mail-order prescription operation, came as a surprise to the union.

Last year, in response to increased competition from CVS and Walgreens, Snyders closed several Minnesota locations. Hesse said the closings led him to believe "they were going to make a go of it" against the larger drug store chains.

"We were encouraged," Hesse said. "They were running fliers in the newspaper, bringing inventory into the stores. We felt they were going to be a presence in the market.

"But the management team for Snyders decided they can make more money if they sell the script off to Walgreens and fold up. They said, 'Let's go while the getting is good.'

"Unfortunately, workers are sacrificed in that process. The market's pretty cruel."

Workers affected by Snyders' decision include pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and clerks, many of whom have been working for Snyders for decades.

"It's the senior clerks that worry me the most," Hesse said. "A lot of them are older women who've been there for three or four decades. They're going to be hard pressed to find another job."

Ultimately, Hesse added, workers won't be the only ones who lose in Snyders' decision to close shop. As Walgreens and CVS increase their stranglehold on the market, consumers will lose too.

"The more of these chains that are knocked out, the less competitive the market becomes," he said. "At some point, the consumers are going to pay the price."

The union is planning a public campaign to pressure the Katz Group "to do the right thing," Hesse said, and to compel Walgreens to hire some of Snyders' workers.

Michael Moore edits The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation. Learn more at the federation's website.

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    This is really sad and a

    This is really sad and a reminder to patronize the small independent pharmacys that still exist.

    boycott wallgreens

    Amerika is closing. Look at the strip malls around you, people. wake up! in three years, virtually everything, even the service sector, will be eviscerated and gone. you can't spend money on services that you don't have. the 35 years of destroying the production capacity of the U.S. is now coming home to roost. the politoco's who shipped the jobs overseas for their bribes, should find themselves dangling on the same hemp that Saddam dangled on for what they've done to the country to enrich themselves. wake up! the nightmare is only beginning. WAKE UP!

    Life changing decisions

    As a thirteen prescription a month customer of Snyder's Drug Stores I am really saddened by this news. The staff at the Snyder's knows my name and have been filling my prescriptions for so long that they would call me if I was a few days late in calling in my refills. I really don't want to go to Walgreen's or CVS since a lot of my prescriptions are generics and those stores find the cheapest possible generic available, not taking into consideration if a patient has had past issues with a certain drug, from a certain company--they will (and have) tell you "they're all the same, it's the law". Anyone who has been on prescriptions knows, some cause side effects while others of the "same" medication don't. I will find another drug store and it won't be Walgreen's or CVS because I want to live the longest life possible. Ingesting the cheapest generics available, isn't going to help me to live a long life--Snyder's was doing their best to help me a achieve that goal. Yes, Snyder's will be sadly missed.