A closer look at the CVS layoffs

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Last month, in the face of decreasing profits, pharmacy giant CVS Caremark eliminated 300 jobs - half of them in its home city of Woonsocket.

Leo Fontaine, the Mayor of Woonsocket, Frank Switzer, a resident of Woonsocket for 64 years, and John Gregory, the President and CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, all say the lay-offs won't have a huge impact on the community.

Gregory says no one wants to minimize the lay-offs, but Woonsocket has seen worse. "There are those of us that are old enough to remember when Woonsocket was almost decimated when textile mill after textile mill after textile mill moved out, Gregory says. "If you were employed, then certainly the person next door was unemployed."

Gregory says experiences like that have given Woonsocket residents a sense of resiliency. "You know it happens," he says. "It's terrible. Now pick up your pants and let's get going."

But not everyone has that same can-do attitude. Most of the diners eating wieners at New York Lunch on Woonsocket's Main Street hadn't even heard of the lay-offs.

Julio Ouendoe, the owner of a local barber shop, says he saw something about it on the news. "I don't think nobody should be laid off right now," Ouendoe says. "I mean it's hard enough to find a job right now with this economy, so I truly disagree with the lay-offs."

Ouendoe says he doesn't know anyone who lost their job, but he's sure someone in his neighborhood was affected.

Caitlin Love leans against the family services building at 55 Main Street. She's finished her GED classes for the day and is waiting for a ride home from her boyfriend. "My mom actually came home from work talking about it, Love says. "She was a little fearful for her job."

Love says her mom's job was ok- but she's worried about what the lay-offs might mean for Woonsocket. "CVS is the main business that's in our city," She says. "That's pretty much what helps a lot of people in this town and if they keep laying off people, there's barely jobs for anybody else."

There's no indication CVS is planning any more lay-offs.

With more than three thousand employees, CVS is the largest employer in Woonsocket. If the company moved away, it would be a real crisis for this city where less than 13 percent of the residents have a bachelor's degree.

The success of CVS is so intertwined with the success of Woonsocket, to people like Bruce Butler, who just finished his wieners at New York Lunch on Main street, the pharmacy company made the right choice.

"It's a tough decision," he says. "I'm sure they don't enjoy doing it, but if you don't do it sometimes, more people get hurt in the long run, you know? It's too bad for the ones that are directly involved with it, but what are you going to do?"

CVS declined to talk on tape for this story, but in a written statement, a spokesman says "The Company continues to grow and we continue to hire for specific positions and skill sets." CVS says there's a possibility that people who were laid off will be rehired for new positions, provided that they're qualified.

For now, the 150 people who lost their jobs will be paid until November 27th, the day when Woonsocket will really know what these lay-offs mean for its community.

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