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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Red Cross Attacks Workers Who Help Protect Blood Supply

Teamsters Local 580

The American Red Cross is viciously attacking its workforce in the Midwest. More than 300 qualified, hardworking unionized blood services workers remain on strike over plans by Red Cross that would destabilize blood supply safety and strip workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The Lansing workers were forced to strike on March 30, joining workers in Cleveland, who walked out on Feb. 14 because the American Red Cross wants its workers to give up their rights to a collective voice and accept staffing levels that could endanger the blood supply. For the dedicated staff members at blood collection sites, these are critical issues that cannot be sacrificed.

"Red Cross continues to ignore the facts about why we are on strike," said Mike Parker, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 580 in Lansing, which has 50 members on strike. "Our members want a voice on the job and they are concerned that the minimum staffing level that Red Cross is pushing through could cause further potential dangers for the blood supply."

Many union members who work for the Red Cross have been staffing blood drives for years. They know their donors and have been especially disheartened by Red Cross' callous attitude toward not only blood safety but also donor loyalty.

"I miss our donors and want to get back to work," said Jennifer Hemstreet, a 19-year mobile unit assistant. "But we have to stand strong against management until we can bargain for a fair contract."

When the first strike occurred, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa wrote directly to Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern to ask her to intervene. So far, no response has been received.

The Teamsters Union has remained committed to reaching an agreement with Red Cross.

"We initially offered a health care plan to Red Cross, which would have lowered their fees by 40 percent, yet they turned it down," said Al Mixon, Teamsters Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 507 in Cleveland, where 240 Red Cross workers are on strike. "It became clear that Red Cross isn't as interested in saving money as it claimed to be."

In reality, the American Red Cross is a profit-driven corporation. This is best demonstrated not only by their demands at the bargaining table, but also their national board of directors, which consists of executives from such corporations as Walmart, Starbucks and Caterpillar.

"We ask for the community's continued patience as each of these workers is making a huge sacrifice in the attempt to maintain their voice and secure a safe blood supply," Parker said. "We have attempted to have these issues heard in the collective bargaining process; however we were driven to withhold our services in order to maintain worker and patient safety. "

"Please stand with us as each of us stand for you and your loved ones."

In addition to the units in Lansing and Cleveland, United Food and Commercial Workers Union members at Red Cross in Toledo and Office and Professional Employees International Union members in Lansing are also on strike.