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AFSCME supports American Red Cross workers as they struggle for fair treatment and respect

An empty donation table at an American Red Cross blood drive event. (Photo credit: Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
By AFSCME Staff ·

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, front-line workers across the country – from nurses and EMTs to correctional officers and child care providers – have continued to serve their communities at the risk of becoming infected. They have kept their communities safe while often putting their own well-being on the line.

The same is true of Bobbie Terrell and her co-workers at the American Red Cross. They help the organization in its mission to prevent and relieve human suffering. The Red Cross provides some 40% of our nation’s blood supply. As a collections technician in Peoria, Ill., Terrell plays a role in that vital function.

But despite their hard work and sacrifice, American Red Cross workers are not receiving the respect and fair treatment they deserve from their employer. They are gearing up to negotiate this month with Red Cross management over a host of workplace issues, including staffing levels, unsafe workplace conditions and costlier health insurance.

“Most of my co-workers and staff don’t feel appreciated,” says Terrell, a member of AFSCME Local 2691 (Council 31). “They are giving new hires bonuses of $1,500 – but not giving the staff who have been here through it all, risking their lives for the organization, anything. No hazard pay, no raises. The only thing they gave us as a ‘thank you’ was pizza.”

Terrell says there is high turnover at the Red Cross, and that it’s caused by bad pay and working conditions.

“They are hiring temp workers to try to make up for it, and expediting training,” she says. “This is leading to mistakes, which are very costly to the organization because it can mean they have to discard whole units of blood donations.”

In addition, American Red Cross is trying to move the workers into an insurance plan with higher out-of-pocket costs – bigger deductibles and co-pays, according to a contract negotiator.

“I am extremely upset about it,” Terrell says. “We have great insurance now, and that’s the only thing keeping people here. If they do, in fact, get away with cutting insurance, there will be no one left to work at ARC. People already struggle to make ends meet at this job, and it’s going to be much worse.”

Across the nation, fed-up workers are increasingly raising their voices to demand higher pay, better benefits and respect on the job. From factory workers to health care workers and more, they have sparked a national wave of activism that continues into the new year.

Red Cross workers are represented by the Coalition of American Red Cross Unions, which includes AFSCME, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and other unions.

AFSCME will continue to support all Red Cross workers in their struggle to be treated with the respect and fairness they deserve.

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