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American Red Cross workers, including AFSCME members, rally for fair contract

Photo credit: Omar Tewfik
By AFSCME Staff ·

American Red Cross (ARC) workers, including many AFSCME members, are rallying this week in cities nationwide to fight back against mistreatment from their employer and demand a fair contract. The protests are being held in Washington; Lansing, Michigan; Peoria, Illinois; Hartford, Connecticut; Pomona, California; and San Diego.

At the Peoria event on Monday, Bobbie Terrell, a Red Cross collection specialist and president of AFSCME Local 2691 (Council 31), said the national blood shortage stems from many of the problems that she and her co-workers are trying to address.

“Those of us on the front lines know that the problem is not a blood supply shortage, and that’s because Red Cross has treated its workers poorly, and that as a result, staff are leaving in droves,” Terrell said, according to WCBU.org. “It is a crisis, but there is a way to address it.”

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Terrell and her co-workers, as well as ARC workers nationwide, have put their lives at risk to continue maintaining our nation’s blood supply. But they weren’t always given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and went without pay when they were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.

In addition, management proposes to roll back health care benefits for thousands of employees and refuses to negotiate a fair contract that addresses unsafe working conditions, including dangerous understaffing. This month, ARC workers began negotiations with management over these and other workplace issues.

“We care about the work we are doing,” Terrell said. “It’s not just a job; it’s a calling. We want to continue making the difference between life and death. We are all asking for the Red Cross to do the same. Negotiate a fair contract that boosts staffing levels and treat the everyday heroes who do this work with respect.”

Joe Tine, an ARC collections technician and president of AFSCME Local 3145 (Council 4), said management is offering rank-and-file employees subpar health care benefits.

“Don’t be fooled, the health care plan the American Red Cross has put on the table is a lesser version of the plan that high earners at the company participate in, and its coverage is not comparable to what we had with TeamCare,” Tine said at the Hartford rally. “We are fighting to preserve employee health care that is comprehensive, affordable, and in keeping with the life-saving mission of the Red Cross.”

At the rally in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, Felicia White Sims, president of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees 1199, called on the ARC to live up to the organization’s ideals and work collaboratively to achieve a fair contract

“For the front-line heroes at Red Cross, the negotiations happening right now inside the building behind us are about getting a fair contract that addresses long-running and systemic issues that put dedicated front-line Red Cross employees and donors at risk,” she said. “It is about maintaining the nation’s blood supply and protecting the communities that rely on the service Red Cross workers provide.”

Front-line American Red Cross workers are deeply committed to their work, but they will not sit back and watch while their colleagues and donors are disrespected and put at risk. The situation at ARC is yet another example of why tens of thousands of working people across the country are realizing the union difference, and they are mobilizing, walking out, and striking for the respect and dignity they deserve.

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