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Friday, February 10, 2012

Blood Battle Pits Red Cross Against Local Union (Updated)

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 1:08 PM

I was right when I heard sugar cookies, right?
  • "I was right when I heard sugar cookies, right?"

Update:The Red Cross has gone ahead and pulled the plug on next week's blood drive due to the impending strike. Newsnet5 reports the details. The drive was an annual event held at Executive Caterer at Landerhaven on Valentine's Day.

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The American Red Cross needs blood in a big way. By next week, they might need bodies to suck it out of you too.

Cleveland-based Teamsters Local 507 told the local Red Cross last week of its plans for a work stoppage among some 250 employees — blood-drawing types and their assistants — by the middle of the month. The threat follows contract negotiations that stalled over health-care benefits, and the proposed strike date is no coincidence: Valentine’s Day marks the start of the Red Cross’ largest blood drive of the year.

The two parties have been at the table for about six months, although health-care squabbles arose only in recent weeks, says Red Cross spokeswoman Christy Sabaka. The same health-care package offered to non-union staff was turned away by the Teamsters, she says. The two sides have yet to resume talks to head off a strike. “Obviously, we don’t want this to happen.”

Local 507’s Albert Mixon says the problem runs beyond health benefits, to the roots of the national organization itself. The labor boss says his members are overworked, and recent problems with pension funds and other benefits have ended in arbitration. Union employees across the country have put up with the same circumstances, he says, and upwards of 10 Red Cross unions went on strike last year alone.

“Because of their image, it’s a real testy situation because people think that we’re trying to deny hospitals and patients blood,” Mixon says. “We would never want to put anybody in harm’s way. But they’re definitely putting their workers in harm’s way.”

Should the stalemate continue, the local flow of donated blood could be cut off. According to Sabaka, the Red Cross is working out contingency plans, including imported blood and labor, to make sure hospitals and other clients get what they need.

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