Red Cross workers give intent to strike notice
Red Cross officials said there could be a reduction in blood drives if union employees decide to strike Sept. 16. (Bruce Siwy)
Red Cross officials announced late Monday that employees represented by Communications Workers of America Local No. 13000 are planning a work stoppage at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 16. The union represents approximately 200 Greater Alleghenies Region employees who staff blood drives in 67 of the region’s 100 counties, including Somerset and Cambria.
Marianne Spampinato, Red Cross communications manager, said a negotiating session is scheduled for Sept. 7.
According to the American Red Cross, health benefits have been the biggest issue in negotiations. The Red Cross said it put forward a contact proposal consistent with the pay and benefits package provided locally to nonunion staff. The Red Cross pays 90 percent of the premium amounts for employee-only coverage and 80 percent for employees and their dependents.
Jeff Reamer, executive vice president of CWA Local 13000, said about a year ago an independent arbitrator ruled in the union’s favor on a health care matter. He said the Red Cross has refused to honor the arbitrator’s decision. So the union sent the Red Cross notice of a strike and filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board over the organization’s refusal to honor the decision.
“It is strictly an unfair labor practice strike,” he said.
Reamer said the union would like to see the matter resolved at the Sept. 7 meeting.
“We are hopeful this issue gets resolved and we don’t have to go to a work stoppage,” he said.
Spampinato said if there is a work stoppage, nonunion staff may be able to help with some blood drives.
“We would hope to maintain some level of blood drives if there is indeed a work stoppage,” she said.
Spampinato said Hurricane Irene has forced the cancellation of more than 60 blood drives along the East Coast, resulting in a shortfall of 2,000 units of blood. Some sites where drives have been scheduled are without power, damaged or not accessible.
The union is required to give a 10-day notice of a work stoppage because its members are in the health care field, Spampinato said.
Reamer said the union chose the date for a reason.
“The reason for the Sept. 16 date is there are many service bloodmobiles scheduled in honor of 9/11,” he said. “We extended to go past that date so we are able to service those bloodmobiles in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11.”
The bargaining unit has not had a work stoppage in the past. Reamer said the union is compiling a list of alternative places to donate blood that are not affiliated with the American Red Cross and plans to release that list to the public.
“At this point we are basically at that point where we have no alternative,” he said.
Along with Somerset and Cambria counties, a work stoppage could affect: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Cumberland, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lawrence, Mercer, Mifflin, Perry, Washington and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania and portions of Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.