Wednesday, February 8

‘People are walking off the job’: workers blame American Red Cross for US blood shortage | United States

The American Red Cross, which controls about 40% of the blood supply in the US, declared a national blood shortage in January, the worst shortage in over a decade.

The Red Cross emphasized decreasing blood donations as a driving factor for shortages, citing a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood during the pandemic. The shortage has continued across the US in recent months.

But workers at the organization say the shortage is being caused by widespread staffing issues. Low pay and understaffing are causing problems, and workers say they often have to turn away donors due to backed-up lines, and that management has not supported workers or donors enough to resolve these issues.

A document from a January meeting revealed that a Red Cross senior account manager, Joseph Shockley, told hospital representatives that labor and staffing issues have driven blood supply concerns, cautioning: “We don’t want to drive donors to places that are understaffed that turn donors away – that becomes frustrating to donors.”

Shockley did not respond to requests for comment and the Red Cross did not comment on the memo.

“It’s not a blood shortage, it’s a worker shortage,” said Darryl Ford, a collection technician at Red Cross in Warner Robins, Georgia for 23 years, and president of local union branch USW L254. “Covid provided a lot of things. People are not going to take anything any more and just because the Red Cross has that non-profit logo, people are not above it. More people are walking off the job than I’ve seen in 20 years.”

He said in his area in Georgia, he’s seen several workers quite recently, including workers who have been with the group for years. Due to short staffing, I have argued, many donors walk in to blood drives and leave because the line is backed up. Workers are often expected to drive long hours to blood drives, work those short-staffed drives, and drive long hours back.

About 3,000 employees represented by a coalition of labor unions at Red Cross have been pushing for a new union contract over the past several months to address issues with pay and staffing, and to protect their current healthcare plans.

The unions have called on the FDA to pressure the Red Cross to agree to a fair contract with the unions, citing high staff turnover rates around the US. several unions have accused the organization of not negotiating in good faith amid long delays in scheduling bargaining sessions.

In May, 47 members of Congress signed a letter calling on the Red Cross to negotiate a fair contract with the unions.

Bobbie Terrell, a Red Cross collection specialist for 23 years in Illinois and president of AFSCME Local 2691, argued many current workers have stayed with the organization for healthcare. But Red Cross has proposed to cut healthcare plans for workers, which will worsen staffing issues, and that current workers are not receiving pay increases while sign-on bonuses are being offered to new employees.

“You don’t have the staff or the donors to support the blood supply and we’re really going to be short-staffed because there are going to be people leaving because of healthcare,” said Terrell. “They need to pay people an appropriate amount for the work that they do.”

A spokesperson for American Red Cross said the organization was continuing to bargain in good faith with the coalition of unions and cited that they came to an agreement with the Teamsters, which occurred shortly after a strike threat.

“While we experienced a national blood shortage just a couple of months ago, we currently have a sufficient supply of blood on the shelves to support patients in need. Additionally, we are proud to share that in the last quarter, our hiring rate has increased approximately 50% – allowing us to bring on more employees than ever before – stabilizing the workforce and ensuring we can meet the needs of patients,” said the spokesperson in an email.

Terrell, Ford and the union coalition claimed the Red Cross has not communicated an end to the blood shortage to their workforce and provided a photo of a flyer soliciting donors taken on 21 June outside a Red Cross site in Illinois, which cited the blood shortage.

Several Red Cross donation events around the US just recent weeks also quote a blood shortage.

A spokesperson for the union coalition said: “The issue is retention. Incumbent workers are still leaving for higher-paying jobs, and according to members, many new hires are also leaving over issues of staffing and inadequate training.”

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