Penn-Jersey blood drive workers threaten another strike

    American Red Cross blood collection workers in Southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey have filed a notice of their intent to strike Sept. 16.

    About 250 workers went on strike for three weeks in the spring to protest what they say were inadequate staffing and overly long hours.

    They have been working since then under a 90-day contract extension.

    Anthony Tornetta, a spokesman for the Red Cross’ Penn-Jersey region, said it is bad timing for a work stoppage. More than 50 blood drives in the region were canceled due to Hurricane Irene, he said.

    “We’re hopeful that we can work out an agreement that’s good for all parties,” he said. “It’s just that it’s really disheartening that the union is considering a possibility of going on strike during a time when they know the blood supply is low.”

    The contract was set to expire this week, but the union requested an additional weeklong extension to avoid interrupting the blood supply.

    Four other unions working with the Red Cross across the country have filed notices of their intent to strike this week or next.

    An FDA inspection of the Philadelphia blood center on Spring Garden in Center City, which was publicized in a Philadelphia Inquirer article last week, found chronic understaffing there.

    The report dealt with non-union employees at the donor support center, not the traveling blood workers now threatening to strike. But Health Professionals and Allied Employees spokeswoman Jeanne Otersen says it reflects the workers’ concerns about national management.

    “I think it validates what the workers have been saying, which is that when you don’t provide the proper staffing, the proper oversight, you have errors,” Otersen said.

    The Red Cross said the two groups of employees are managed by different branches of the nonprofit, and the issues raised by an FDA inspection a year ago have nothing to do with the unionized workers.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal