47 members of Congress recently sent a letter to the American Red Cross urging it to settle a month-long contract dispute with its workers who are demanding more staffing and higher pay.
“I think staff are just tired,” said Bobbie Terrell, a Red Cross employee in Illinois for the last 23 years. “They’re tired of their concerns not being heard. They’re tired of working understaffed. They’re tired of being put in positions that just aren’t good.”
Among those concerns: low staffing numbers, burnout, insurance issues, and pay. For the last eight months unions representing thousands of these workers have been negotiating better contracts.
“We have all kinds of anecdotal evidence that people are leaving in droves,” said John Haines, a bargainer for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Haines’ concern, as is the concern with several of the American Red Cross workers we spoke with, is that the issues are leading to worker turnover and canceled blood drives, which are only exacerbating our nation’s blood crisis.
On January 11, The American Red Cross announced a national blood crisis, saying it had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. It said at times, up to one-quarter of hospital blood needs were not being met.
The American Red Cross provides 40% of our nation’s blood supply.
“Donors say I come in here and they turn me away because they don’t have the staff and so I’m just not coming back,” said Terrell. “So, we’ve seen the decreased donor flow.”
In an email to us, The American Red Cross said, “it greatly values its employees” adding “within the last three months, we have hired more employees than ever before to ensure we can meet the blood needs of patients.”
The organization backed up those claims citing it has invested $50 million since October to support higher wages, hiring incentives, and job retention programs.