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Red Cross workers win 9% pay increase, retain strong health benefits in historic contract

Photo Credit: Getty Images
By Omar Tewfik ·

After nearly a year of tough negotiations with their employer, a coalition of 3,000 front-line American Red Cross workers ratified a two-year contract that will guarantee a historic 9% pay increase and an additional ratification bonus of up to $1,715 for full-time employees.

The contract, which covers members of AFSCME and allied unions around the country, will address long-standing workplace safety issues, including severe understaffing that puts blood donors and front-line staff at risk. In addition, the agreement – ratified late last week by a majority of the unions – prevents drastic cuts to employee health care proposed by the employer.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, front-line Red Cross workers have put themselves in harm’s way to collect and maintain the nation’s blood supply. At times, they were not provided with the proper personal protective equipment, and when they were exposed to COVID on the job, some were forced to stay home without pay.

Instead of working to improve conditions for these everyday heroes, during negotiations, Red Cross executives insisted on forcing employees to accept a high-deductible health plan that would have significantly raised premiums and out of pocket costs. The treatment of Red Cross staff, according to the workers, was leading to an exodus of trained personnel, worsening the nation’s blood supply shortage.  

To change conditions in the workplace and protect their communities, the workers rallied together through their unions and demanded respect from their employer. They organized in their workplaces and communities, launching a campaign that sent over 10,000 letters from people across the country to Red Cross executives demanding a fair contract.

They held rallies and press conferences in several cities including, Washington; Lansing, Michigan; Peoria, Illinois; Hartford, Connecticut; Pomona, California; and San Diego. Because of these efforts, 47 members of Congress representing those states and others wrote to Red Cross leaders and the unions of front-line staff urging a swift resolution to contract negotiations and that workers be treated with respect. (Read other AFSCME Now blogs on this issue here, here and here).“This type of mobilization is only possible with the strength in numbers working people get through being an active part of their union,” said Bobbie Terrell, a collections tech and member of AFSCME Council 31 in Illinois who served on the bargaining committee.

“We don’t do this work to get rich, we do it because we care about our communities,” Terrell said. “For that, we deserve a voice and a seat at the table to make improvements that benefit staff and the donors. This is why we need to keep organizing and growing our union.”

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