LANCASTER — About 20 current and former Rite Aid employees were joined Friday by union organizers in protesting what they described as untenable working conditions and unfair labor practices. They gathered in front of a warehouse where they say they were forced to work in triple-digit temperatures. Their complaints are the basis of charges under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board, NLRB spokesman Tony Bisceglia confirmed. A spokeswoman for the International Longshore Warehouse Union, which represents the Rite Aid workers, said it has filed 49 separate charges against Rite Aid for acts committed by 14 managers at its Lancaster warehouse. The charges include unlawful termination of two union members, and threatening and disciplining others, the ILWU’s Marcy Rein said. Rite Aid employees testified before state lawmakers Wednesday that the company has failed to provide adequate cooling systems in its Lancaster warehouse, which it blames for a fatality last summer. Rite Aid spokeswoman Jody Cook said the accusations were “without merit.” She said a coroner’s report and the company’s own investigation determined that the employee’s death was not heat-related, nor was it caused by the company’s actions. Cook said that although not air-conditioned, Rite Aid distribution centers feature high-speed fans and swamp coolers, and are designed to meet or exceed regulatory codes. Rite Aid, she said, is committed to employee safety, and denied that the company intimidates union organizers. “We’re not surprised that former associates or union supporters would make false claims against the organization,” she said. Rite Aid employee Tim Patrick, who was among the protesters, accused the drug store chain of engaging in a pattern of “intimidation and threats.” He said a company executive told him his active union membership, which he said includes organizing workers, imperiled his employment status. Patrick said he was soon demoted from backup lead — a warehouse position equivalent to assistant manager — to a “Joe-Blow worker” for what he described as a minor infraction. “They said I violated company policy, but it was all about the union. I’ve been strong about the union since it started, and I’ve never been afraid to show it,” Patrick said. Warehouse employees say they work in temperatures that frequently exceed 100 degrees in the summer, and have been recorded as high as 119 degrees in certain rooms. They say the 1 million-square-foot plant on Avenue H has air conditioning in its business offices, cafeteria and break rooms — but not where they work. “It feels like you’re in a heater,” Rite Aid employee Faye Rollf said. — Gideon Rubin (661) [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!