Rubber Soul: CVS Accused of Locking Up Condoms in Its Eastside Stores
CVS pharmacies are being accused of keeping their Eastside stores' condoms locked up at the same time its Westside outlets have the rubbers on open display. A press released issued by the labor federation Change to Win stated today that this practice "stigmatizes
"[B]uying condoms can literally mean the difference between life and death, and people on the Eastside should have equal access to condoms. In HIV prevention, communities of color, women and young people, need a partner in prevention, not another insensitive corporate giant."
Change to Win claims that none of CVS's 23 West L.A. stores had locked up condoms, whereas half of 22 Eastside CVSes visited "were inaccessible without staff assistance."
CVS responsded to the charges with a press release claiming that condoms are only locked up in stores where they are often shoplifted and that all CVS stores -- included those with locked-up prophylactics -- maintain at least a small, open-display supply of condoms that are not locked.
"This campaign," corporate spokesman Mike DeAngelis told the L.A. Weekly, "is being waged by a labor union that had threatened to 'expose' us in the press if we refused to violate our employees rights by having union election that wasn't fair and secret."
Indeed, the Change to Win coalition of unions includes the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has been attempting to organize CVS workers. Change to Win is the force behind Cure CVS, a national campaign that has very publicly accused the pharmacy chain of selling out-of-date goods, maintaining unsanitary facilities and locking up condoms in minority neighborhoods.
Locally, this has provoked an unlikely controversy in a city already supercharged with racial and ethnic sensitivities. DeAngelis said the lockup policy is needed in high shoplifting neighborhoods to prevent "inventory wipeout -- which would result in real accessibility problems. It's all a red herring."
Gina Bowers, a spokesperson for Change to Win flatly denies that CVS maintains an open-display policy in all of its stores, based on its own inspections. She also denies the union-organizing charge.
"We're not organizing CVS drug stores," Bowers told the Weekly. "This is about CVS drug stores being responsible to the communities in which they operate. They are the largest pharmacy chain in the country -- what they do matters." Bowers said that the Change to Win campaign has resulted in CVS stores in Boston and Philadelphia taking their condoms out from locked display cases.