Red Cross forces workers out on strike

PHILADELPHIA - Continuing its campaign to strip its blood bank workers of their rights and their health care, the American Red Cross - one of the nation's largest charities - has forced some 250 nurses and blood donor collectors in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey out on strike.

After a morning rally here June 6 the workers, members of the American Federation of Teachers Local 5103, brought their campaign to Washington, where they staged a mass protest at Red Cross headquarters.

At issue here and in 23 other places nationwide where contracts have expired, is not just mistreatment of Red Cross workers - the charity wants to freeze pay and yank the right to bargain over health insurance - but also the impact that mistreatment of workers has on the nation's blood supply.

The unions, including AFT, the Office and Professional Employees, the Steelworkers, AFSCME, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Teamsters, the Communications Workers, the Service Employees and the Auto Workers, point out Red Cross' mismanagement of the U.S. blood supply is so wide-ranging that it had to sign a court-ordered "consent decree" in 1993 with the feds, promising to correct abuses.

But the problems continue, forcing the federal Food and Drug Administration to fine the Red Cross $37 million since then. And 64 of 231 "serious and preventable" blood recalls were in the Philadelphia-New Jersey region. Fines there are $9.78 million.

The problems brought the protesters to Washington, marching in front of the headquarters and releasing a report detailing the Red Cross' abuses in its $2 billion blood supply business. The problems are directly linked to Red Cross worker mistreatment and its 212 instances of labor law breaking, the unionists said.

The contract between Local 5103 and the Red Cross expired May 22, and the workers were forced to strike two days later. The report unions released documented low morale among workers resulting from what unions say has been years of disrespect for workers' rights at the Red Cross. 

Red Cross "is an organization that is supposed to be about caring," AFT President Randi Weingarten declared to the crowd at the demonstration in the nation's capital. "But if you don't care about your own workers, you don't care about the people you're caring for, either.

"What I find most offensive is that they say, 'We'll talk about safety after you give up your collective bargaining rights.' Collective bargaining is about safety," Weingarten declared. Brandishing the report, Ann Twomey, president of AFT's New Jersey nurses affiliate, added, "This is not only a big business, it's a greedy one."

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • I am a Redcross Staff, Staff is not just out for an increase in pay. For the work we do, and compared to other companies that hire phlebotomist get paid way more for less workload.

    Posted by Javerlyn , 06/30/2011 6:51pm (5 years ago)

  • We are having the same problems here in New Hampshire. What bothers me is why there isn't there more public outrage. I would like to see ads in the media letting the public at large know what's going on! I think that the donors and patients, in particular, should be informed.

    Posted by MIke Munroe, 06/26/2011 7:14am (5 years ago)

  • I've worked for the red cross for a year now, and i know i cant speak for different regions, but in the baltimore washington region we don't have many of these issues. To be honest the people striking aren't doing it for donor safety or anything of the sort, they trying to mask greed under a humanitarian veil. Now i understand they wouldn't want to lose bargaining rights or health benefits or anything like that, but they need to earn those things, and by the reports they put out, they proved that they havent. All of these violations are preventable by the collections staff, but their failure to go by proper procedure ends up in recalls and fines. This has nothing to do with the managment, but with the collection staff not wanting to lose money when they're not doing a good enough job. There's a reason the turnover rates for the ARC are so high, people in bad situations go to a quicky course on hemotology and instantly go for a job with the red cross because they always need phlebotomists. The people who get hired don't care about the job, they just want a bigger paycheck. Our region had ZERO violations this past year, and that's because our directors make sure every step of collection is properly documented and looked over.

    Posted by , 06/14/2011 11:25am (5 years ago)

  • After working full-time for ARC for 6 years in one state,
    I moved to another state and got a part-time job with them. They refused to hire me full-time, although the work load was there, opting to pay overtime since that didn't include benefits.

    At the time, the head of the chapter/region was making $2000K annually, and was the highest paid ARC head in the nation.

    These people do not treat employees well at various levels.

    Posted by ceej, 06/13/2011 7:37pm (5 years ago)

  • I've always felt that the Red Cross was wasteful, but this is ridiculous! I had no idea they were being treated this way. I bet those workers are being villafied in the press, if they are in it at all. We need to find another please to give blood to show our solidarity.

    Posted by Brandon Ir, 06/13/2011 9:55am (5 years ago)

  • The Red Cross has a history of being anti-union. During the 1930s coal miners strike in Harlan County, WV the Red Cross refused to send aid for an industrial dispute, and the bankrupt UMW was husbanding their meager reserves for an official strike.
    Inevitably the miners and their families began to literally starve and the Red Cross basically told the striking families to suck it up and go back to work or starve.

    Posted by Qotfw, 06/13/2011 12:34am (5 years ago)

  • I work for the ARC in NH. We have the same problems.
    We are forced to go into places filthy and full of mold, the staff and donors are at risk.
    We have also gone into places that are full of cockroaches.
    Of course our Mgt. can't come to a phone when unsafe sites are in question.
    It is not always money, The American Red Cross Mgt is compramiseing our blood supply.. Extream temps, also.

    Posted by Patrice , 06/12/2011 8:36pm (5 years ago)

  • I believe this is because the CEO and Chairman of the Board are both loyal Republicans.

    Posted by everleight way, 06/10/2011 5:45pm (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments