Striking workers converge on Red Cross headquarters


CLEVELAND - With walkouts looming in two more regions, striking Northern Ohio Red Cross workers brought their anger and frustration to the agency's National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., March 19.

Riding all night in buses, 150 blood technicians and mobile unit operators, members of Teamsters Local 507, held a spirited rally in a nearby park and marched to the offices of the giant charity where they picketed with boisterous non-stop chants throughout the lunch hour.

The 250 workers in the nation's largest Red Cross region walked out Feb. 14 after nine months of futile talks for a new contract.  The strike, affecting 19 northern Ohio counties, occurred as the agency insisted on reduced health care benefits, heavier workloads and conditions the union says threaten the safety of donors, employees and the blood supply.

"They're trying to erode our living standards.  They want you to take ten to fifteen thousand dollars in cuts," Al Mixon, Principal Officer of the local told the cheering crowd.  "I can't recommend that."

Red Cross, he said, is "wants to turn all of you into part-time workers."

Mixon pointed to last year's appointment of virulently anti-union Walmart CEO William Simon to the 22-member Red Cross Board of Governors as evidence for the agency's union-busting policies.  As with other major national charities, the ARC board is dominated by former and current executives of giant corporations and Wall St. Banks.

"They are the 1 percent," Mixon said.  "We are 99 percenters. They are trying to turn this into a Third World country."

Solidarity with the strikers was voiced by representatives of the District of Columbia Teamsters, the United Steelworkers (representing Red Cross workers in Georgia) and DC Jobs With Justice.  Mike Parker, Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 580 representing Red Cross workers in Lansing, Michigan, announced to loud applause that a walkout would begin March 30 in that region.

"We're going to shut these people down," he said.  "We're going to kill Red Cross greed with Teamster justice!"

The Lansing strike is set to begin a few days after Red Cross workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers, in Toledo plan to walk out March 27.

While Red Cross demands cuts in wages and benefits, its employees have been outraged at massive increases in pay to top executives, especially the more than $1 million salary of CEO Gail McGovern, who is also the agency's board.

"Gail McGovern, You Can't Hide - We Can See Your Greedy Side!" the pickets chanted as employees walked in and out of the headquarters.

"ARC Is Unfair - All We Want Is Our Fair Share!" they continued, adding "ARC Rich And Rude - We Don't Like Your Attitude!"

Wearing t-shirts reading "Red Cross - Cold Blooded," the strikers handed headquarters' employees green bills labeled "$496 Gail McGovern Bucks" representing the CEO's hourly wage.  "Donate Your Blood - I Need Another Lexus," the bills read.

"We Won't Bleed For Red Cross Greed!" the pickets chanted.

Angela Hereford, an irrepressible young African-American phlebotomist with a powerful voice, led the chants.  Prior to being a medical technician, she had been a cheerleader in High School and Junior High in Sandusky.

Candace Billups, a blood collection worker for 13 years, said Red Cross has cut back on employee health plans and benefits while doubling premiums. 

"We now have only two choices with $100 premium each pay and no vision or dental," she said.  "We want the Teamster health plan that includes medical, vision and dental and is cheaper."

Joanna Wilcox, the driver and blood technician in a mobile unit, said she must work 10-hour days with only one 15-minute break.

Like the other strikers she defiantly wore a floppy monkey pin in response to a statement allegedly made to a monthly employee meeting by Carolyn Kean, the Cleveland office's Senior Director of Collections, that she "could train monkeys to do your job."

Kean did not return calls for a comment to the People's World.

Click here to view videos of the labor action. Photo: Al Mixon with sign. Rick Nagin/PW

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  • Rick Nagin you are awsome 507 want's to THANK YOU for going with us on the trip to Washington we LOVE YOU. Your story is the greatest and so nice to send the people to my u-tube channel. You are a great warrior!
    I have been donating my blood to the Red Cross over forty years eight gallons of my blood have saved alot of lives along with thousands and thousands of other Teamsters for decades. Red Cross stop BLEEDING your employees! The Teamsters have been making you money for decades with our BLOOD. Red Cross don't you know how to give back? Red Cross your a non profit organization why wouldn't you want to save millions of dollars a year by letting your employees into the Teamsters Healtth Care? or do you want to keep taking care of the people at the top? SHAME ON YOU RED CROSS! You will not get one drop of my union blood until you start taking care of the GREAT UNION employees that you have working for you.

    Rick Vacha VaHoffa!
    Teamster 507 retiree

    Posted by Rick Vacha, 03/23/2012 10:56pm (3 years ago)

  • I am proud to say that I know these great people. They work hard every day saving lives and are honestly being taken advantage of. They are not asking for the world, just a reasonable living to go with an extraordinary job. I have been following the strike since it started, and these people need a break, they need negotiations to start and get back to work. As a former employee of the Red Cross, I attended that meeting where we were told that "monkeys could do our job". I do not think so, in fact I think the one that said that could not do the job either. Please support these people as they try to set an example of how greed and the almighty dollar can hurt the people that bring those dollars in.

    Posted by Tammy Lettieri, 03/23/2012 7:24pm (3 years ago)

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