Red Cross Blood Services workers in Southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey are on strike after contract negotiations between the union and the American Red Cross stalled Monday night. About 250 traveling blood drive workers are on picket lines outside six blood donation centers in the region, and more than 10 drives have been cancelled.
Protesters outside the 7th Street and Spring Garden blood processing center flanked the road during morning rush hour, wearing matching red shirts and waving union pennants.
The mood was upbeat, but many members of Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5103 said the same thing:
“I want to get back to work,” said Karen Bruynell from South Jersey. “I can’t afford this.”
Mary Gassler, from Franklinville, N.J., said she hopes the strike is short-lived.
“Me personally, I want it over tomorrow,” Gassler said. “I want it over yesterday actually. I just got this job after being out of work for six months, I was finally getting back on my feet.”
The union said the Red Cross is attempting to curb collective bargaining rights for healthcare and cut benefits, and is being inflexible in negotiating staffing, scheduling and training.
The Red Cross said it has been bargaining in good faith.
“Part of the negotiations has involved asking union employees to make sacrifices similar to those made by non-union employees during an economy which still remains challenging,” wrote Anthony Tornetta, a Red Cross regional communications manager, in a statement. “Very similar terms have been successfully negotiated since 2008 in more than a dozen contract agreements with six different unions representing Red Cross workers.”
Karen Bruynell said she is most worried about proposed changes to the contract she said would give workers with seniority less control over where and when they are working.
“I think it would be unfair for us to say, ‘Well we want all these new things,’” Bruynell said. “But (we’re) not doing that, and they’re unwilling to budge anything,” Bruynell said.
The Red Cross advises donors to call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to redcrossblood.org to check the status of scheduled drives.
Bargaining has been suspended and neither side is guessing when the strike will be over.