‘Stop messing with our medical insurance,’ Red Cross employees fight for higher contract

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PEORIA, In poor health. (WMBD) — Red Cross employees from the Central Illinois Chapter in Peoria demonstrated Monday to fight for a greater contract.

Members of Union ACSME Local 2691 joined an 11-union coalition representing about 5,000 Red Cross employees across the country.

They’ve been negotiating a latest contract for eight months, and that process is ongoing.

They claimed the recent blood crisis was not as a result of a shortage of blood, but a shortage of staff. They said donors have been turned away from drives for that reason.

Bobbie Terrell, the president of Local 2691 in addition to a set specialist, spoke out about her concerns as a Red Cross worker.

“Straight away, staff morale may be very low. We’re drained, bored with working without enough staff to do the job, bored with concerns not being heard, bored with feeling like we’re talking to a brick wall,” Terrell said.

To further exacerbate the employee shortage, the Red Cross is bringing back drives that were cut throughout the height of the pandemic. Now, those drives are back (at schools, churches, etc.) but protesters said there’s simply not enough staff already, and this spreads them thinner.

Terrell noted two things the organization could do now to make working conditions higher.

“To stop messing with our medical insurance, I feel, is the primary thing. And to staff us properly,” she said.

The highest priority for many is medical insurance, she said.

“To my knowledge, it could be a major increase to the portions that the staff already pay to maintain the sort of healthcare we now have now,” she said.

“We’ve several veteran staff which might be only here– are staying on– as employees due to the healthcare. So we’re in peril of losing them if our healthcare is cut,” she continued.

Amongst their complaints, additionally they said they weren’t given proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during peak moments of the pandemic.

“Employees are exposed to COVID-19 from donors, and so they’re not protected,” Terrell said. “There was a slight period where they really paid us to be off for exposure. But for essentially the most part, employees have burned all their PTO [paid time off] and are only not taking a paycheck for the times that they’ve been off for exposure through work.” 

Shortly after the demonstration this morning, the American Red Cross issued a press release in response, stating they’re continuing negotiations to succeed in the “absolute best agreement.”

It also stated: “We recognize that informational picketing, rallies, media outreach, and other activities happen as a part of the bargaining process – especially leading as much as the tip of a contract. The Red Cross respects the rights of our employees to interact in legally protected activity.”

The response also noted that the present contract extensions with Red Cross unions expire May thirty first.

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