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Wisconsin Council 32 files charge against American Red Cross

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Wisconsin Council 32 files charge against American Red Cross
By AFSCME Council 32 and AFSCME International Staff ·

AFSCME Wisconsin has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the American Red Cross of bargaining in bad faith.

AFSCME Locals 1205 and 1558 represent 300 Red Cross employees in Wisconsin and northern Iowa. Their most recent contracts expired on Sept. 30, 2021, yet Red Cross management has met with the two employee bargaining committees only once each. In total, they’ve canceled or rescheduled as many as 21 sessions.

The NLRB charge was filed Tuesday.

“We have been requesting to negotiate the local contracts with the American Red Cross since August of 2021,” said AFSCME Field Representative Neil Rainford. “The Red Cross has consistently either delayed or outright refused to meet. We've only met for the initial exchange of proposals in February.”

Collections Technician Lora Parker affirmed, “We have given many dates to accommodate the Red Cross. They cancel, and we start over again. We need some resolution. We are fair with them, and they need to be fair with us.”

Local 1558 member Eric Crocker added, “We are understaffed and underpaid for what we do and for what the Red Cross expects from us. Management is avoiding talking to us about these issues.”

The employees’ bargaining proposals prioritize making wages competitive and scheduling sufficient staffing levels. Workers have endured significant reductions in real wages over the past five years, and the Red Cross consistently schedules too many donors for the staff they have available.

This creates a stressful and unsustainable work environment that slows operations, leads to canceled blood drives, and contributes to the shortage of blood available to our hospitals. The changes that the employees have put forward aim to improve these conditions.

“Without engagement from management, employees will continue to take action,” said AFSCME Organizer Issy Bilek. “American Red Cross workers are passionate about their critical role in health care, and they will make every effort to prevent the blood shortage from worsening and impacting even more lives. We hope the Red Cross will join them and negotiate a fair contract that allows their lifesaving work to continue.”

This situation is not unique to Wisconsin or Iowa.

American Red Cross workers nationwide collect, protect and deliver our nation’s blood supply, yet the nearly 2,400 workers aren’t being treated fairly. They are not being paid what they deserve, are chronically short-staffed, face cuts to their health care and, over the course of the pandemic, have often gone without pay and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

As they bargain for a new contract, AFSCME and a coalition of unions that represent Red Cross workers, are calling on the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf, to urge Red Cross management to deliver a fair contract by May 31 – when the current contract expires.

Many Red Cross workers, including AFSCME members, rallied this month in cities nationwide to fight back against mistreatment from their employer and demand a fair contract. The protests were held in Washington; Lansing, Michigan; Peoria, Illinois; Hartford, Connecticut; Pomona, California; and San Diego.

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 the American Red Cross 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.

How you can help

Sign the petition to demand that the Red Cross negotiate with its workers in the Badger-Hawkeye Region of Wisconsin and northern Iowa – and provide them with a fair contract.

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