NEW BRITAIN – Local frontline workers joined fellow American Red Cross (ARC) employees across the U.S. rallying for fair contracts and healthcare benefits this past week at the AFSCME Local 3145’s Council 4 headquarters.
Monday’s event was just one in a national day of action organized by the coalition of unions representing Red Cross workers in cities around the country, in response to contract proposals from the company’s management. The ARC has called for rolling back health care benefits for thousands of employees, who are also protesting unfair contracts that they claim have led to dangerous understaffing and the nation’s blood shortage.
AFSCME Local 3145 President Joseph Tine shed light on how ARC blood technicians, nurses, laboratory staff, and blood transportation workers made personal sacrifices throughout the pandemic to ensure the nation’s blood supply was both adequate and safe.
“We experienced disinformation at the start of the pandemic and struggled to get adequate PPE,” Tine explained. “Many of us quarantined on our own time, after work exposures, and an unlucky few did so without knowing if they would be receiving pay.”
As frontline workers in the medical field, union members called for affordable, quality health insurance benefits.
“We are fighting to preserve employee health care that is comprehensive and affordable, and in keeping with the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross,” Tine said. “As many of us here know, good health care is one of the main factors keeping us working at the Red Cross, as opposed to elsewhere.”
The 160-member bargaining unit claimed poor working conditions have made it difficult to retain staff and thus, have contributed to the blood shortage in the U.S.
Shellye Davis, executive vice president for the Connecticut AFL-CIO representing 200,000-plus Connecticut workers, called on the ARC to stand up on behalf of its dedicated staff.
“You not only deserve our thanks, but you deserve to be compensated fairly,” Davis told Local 3145 members. “I’m sick and tired of hearing executives thank essential workers but then refuse to pay them a living wage or provide affordable insurance. The entire membership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO proudly stands with AFSCME Local 3145 and the rest of the coalition of Red Cross unions as they fight for a fair contract.”
Members of the union coalition are expected to continue negotiations with ARC management in Washington D.C. later this month.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.