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Red Cross workers strike for fairer contract

A local chapter of the Office and Professional Employees International Union representing blood collection workers throughout the state of Michigan are hoping to see a new employment contract put in place between workers and the American Red Cross. In the meantime, many union members have taken to the streets in order to air their grievances to anyone who will listen.

Local 459, based out of Lansing and consisting of 272 members, officially went on strike against the Red Cross claiming that they are not given access to affordable health care, safe conditions at work and adequate staffing.

The union had a four-year compact with the American Red Cross, but it expired around four years ago. The union is hoping to hash out a new agreement and bargaining teams are slated to get back to negotiating sometime this month. The OPEIU has launched similar strikes in a nearby state.

Contrary to what some may believe, staffing at blood drives that are held in places like churches and schools are not compromised of volunteers. A spokesperson for the Great Lakes Region of the American Red Cross called the recent strike unfortunate as it will stop them from conducting blood drives around the state, which are very important to hospitals and health care providers. The Red Cross is able to conduct some blood drives with the staff they still have.

The spokesperson for the Red Cross also said that the ongoing negotiations are centered on health care benefits and not alleged unfair business practices. Recently, the Red Cross switched over to a national health care plan in which union and nonunion employees were asked to make sacrifices.

Still, chief steward of Local 459 stressed that this demonstration does not come from greed; rather, the union wants to improve conditions for both collection staff and blood donors alike.

Eighteen unions signed a contract with the Red Cross in July of 2011, but no such luck with Local 459.

Source:, "Great Lakes Red Cross blood collections workers strike in Kalamazoo saying they want affordable health care," Al Jones, April 3, 2012

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