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Protesters target chain drug store

At right, Braeda Libby of Keizer has a word with a protester in front of Walgreens Tuesday. KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox

A protest banner held outside Walgreens this week is part of a national campaign decrying the company’s building practices.

Starting Monday, there were several people holding up a large “Shame on Walgreens” banner along River Road at the chain’s Keizer location.

Eric Franklin, communications director of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said the company fails to use contractors that pay “area standard” wages, provide healthcare for employees and families and doesn’t give retirement benefits.

“On a nationwide basis, they utilize contractors from outside the area who bring in their own workforce, who pay substantially less than what carpenters in the area should make, who do not pay health benefits, no retirement,” he said. “These are all things the carpenters union has tried to establish in over 100 years of existence.”

Those holding the banner wouldn’t comment to a reporter, but handed out flyers criticizing Walgreens for its building practices along with criticism for previous lawsuit settlements in issues of race discrimination, “deceptive marketing” and prescription medicine.

Franklin said the people holding the banner were union members.

In an e-mailed statement, Walgreens stated “when bids are competitive, we favor 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. We also encourage union contractors to submit bids and a great number of our construction jobs are performed with union labor,” stated Robert Elfinger, a media relations specialist for Walgreens.

“Their public relations people have said that they have a great, responsible bidder policy,” Franklin said. “And they do. They just don’t always use it. It’s used, I think, when it suits them, and when they feel no one is looking they’ll use contractors who don’t go by area standards.”

He didn’t comment specifically on the other issues listed on the flyers, but suggested if a company “is problematic in one area they may be problematic in a number of others.”

Keizer is certainly not the first city to see these protests. Franklin said there have been protests in all 50 states.

“We are out there fighting for middle-class jobs and middle-class wages to support a middle class that spends its money, invests in its local community and is part of that local community,” Franklin said.