Red Cross Cost-Cutting Endangers Nation's Blood Supply

| by AFL-CIO

Millions of Americans contribute blood and money to the Red Cross with the belief that the organization is well run and the blood supply is protected. But a new Jobs with Justice report raises serious concerns about donor safety and the security of the nation’s blood supply.

During a Jobs with Justice telephone press conference yesterday, Mary McDougal, who has worked for a decade at the Red Cross in Buffalo, N.Y., said the Red Cross must improve the way it treats workers and donors.

"Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., thinks it can run a blood drive like you run a McDonald’s. [They need to] hire the right people, give them proper training and listen to us."

The Missouri Jobs with Justice Workers’ Rights Board released the report, “Labor Relations at the American Red Cross and Its Impact on Employee and Donor Safety,” after hearing from front-line Red Cross workers across the country. The investigative report outlines practices that jeopardize blood donors’ safety and the integrity of the blood supply, including long work hours that lead to fatigue and mistakes; sharp pay cuts that cause dramatic increases in employee turnover and hiring non-qualified workers instead of certified nurses.

According to the report:

From the degrading of requirements that medically trained personnel be present at blood drives, to the extraordinarily long workdays with minimal breaks demanded of many workers, to attacks on workers’ collective bargaining rights, management’s changes risk imperiling the safety of donors, the integrity of the blood supply, and the wellbeing of employees.

You can let the Red Cross know you want to ensure that the blood drives are safe here or tweet a message here.

Red Cross workers around the country are joining together to fight for the safety of the blood supply and donors. They say the Red Cross is seeking to replace nurses with unlicensed supervisors, force employees to work unrealistic schedules, make workers bear the increased costs of an inferior health care plan and turn blood collection into an assembly line process.

The national organization also is actively trying to marginalize and thwart the workers’ freedom to join a union. Ten unions represent only 2,500 of the 35,000 Red Cross employees. The organization was hit with 212 unfair labor practices charges by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) between 1996 and 2007. Contracts at seven locations have expired as long as 11 months ago with no new agreement.

Workers at two more locations have been negotiating for first contracts for an extended period and the Red Cross is challenging an NLRB election victory by AFSCME in Illinois over the inclusion of some workers in the bargaining unit. Locals have filed unfair labor practice charges at several locations over unilateral changes to the pension plan and other violations.

Philip Dine, an award-winning journalist and author of the report, says:

"Few national institutions have a prouder name or a more storied history than the American Red Cross. But many frontline blood workers see the Red Cross as an employer that is increasingly determined to cut expenses and increase revenues, even to the potential detriment of donor safety, employee wellbeing and the security of the nation’s blood supply."

Download a copy of the report here.

Teresa Cavazos, a phlebotomist of 11 years with the Red Cross in Tucson, Ariz., says she sometimes works 16- or 18-hour days.

"Sometimes, you don’t get a break, if it’s that busy. They’ll give it to you at the end; they’ll say take 10 minutes before you clean up and put things away. That’s where I find it questionable on the part of the Red Cross. You’re not able to concentrate as clearly as you would, so you tend to make mistakes. It’s not safe for you; not safe for the donor."