‘Slap in the face’: American Red Cross workers describe exploitative work conditions | Charities

Workers at the American Red Cross charity are talking out about what they are saying is low pay, power understaffing, poor working conditions all through the pandemic and proposed cuts to their healthcare.

“The morale is at an all time low in my 23 years of historical past right here,” stated Darryl Ford, a group technician at American Red Cross in Warner Robins, Georgia, and president of native union department USW L254.

He described Red Cross’ response to the pandemic as enterprise as traditional, as the non-profit ramped up blood drives wherever they have been capable of maintain them, since many typical blood drive websites closed when the pandemic hit.

Ford additionally criticized the American Red Cross for doing little to nothing to make clear to the public that the blood donation drives have been simply testing for Covid-19 antibodies, not performing Covid-19 testing and offering insufficient PPE to workers.


On account of the low pay, scheduling issues and dealing conditions, Ford famous that American Red Cross in his area skilled workers leaving all through the pandemic.

A woman gives blood at a Red Cross blood drive in July 2020 even as the Covid-19 pandemic surged.
A lady provides blood at a Red Cross blood drive in July 2020 whilst the Covid-19 pandemic surged. {Photograph}: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

“Persons are quitting,” added Ford. “It’s a slap in the face to the workers for administration to say ‘we’re going to chop your healthcare and never pay you something, whereas we’re going to work from residence and be secure.’”

The Coalition of American Red Cross Unions, which represents about 4,900 workers from 11 worldwide unions at American Red Cross throughout the US, is bargaining with the American Red Cross over the nationwide addendum to the unions’ contracts, which expires on 31 March 2022.

The unions are pushing for wage will increase, to protect present healthcare plans and for options to handle power staffing shortages round the US.

The American Red Cross reported a income of more than $2.8bn in the 2020 fiscal yr and the CEO of the non-profit acquired a wage of greater than $700,000.

Nearly all of its income, roughly $1.73bn, went towards biomedical companies, the a part of the group that collects blood donations and sells them to hospitals and healthcare suppliers. The American Red Cross supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood provide.

Workers who gather and handle blood donations for the non-profit continued working all through the Covid-19 pandemic as important workers.

Alexis Zebrowski, a member of CWA Native 1118, labored as an aide specialist at the department in Albany, New York for one yr earlier than quitting in November 2021 over the low pay round minimal wage, understaffing and dealing conditions via the pandemic.

As an aide specialist, she collected platelet, plasma and blood donations, carried out medical physicals of donors and took affected person histories and helped run blood donation drives, which she famous have been constantly understaffed and resulted in work shifts that went not less than one hour or longer previous her scheduled ten-hour shift with out having the ability to take breaks.

“I can go work at any quick meals restaurant and make more cash,” stated Zebrowski. “I used to be sick of the pay and all the fixed bargaining and all the things. The contracts nonetheless maintain getting pushed out as a result of they don’t wish to give us a increase and even acknowledge something we do for the firm. It’s a slap in the face to work for the sum of money we’re working for.”


She stated the low pay and compelled time beyond regulation led to worsening understaffing via the pandemic, with administration speeding new hires via coaching and blaming present workers when errors have been made in consequence.

“After we’re working, we’re anticipated to work at 100%, however we by no means have 100% in return,” added Zebrowski. “We’re all the time compelled to come back into work it doesn’t matter what, sick or not, we have been anticipated to be there. In any other case, we’d be fearing for our job as a result of we’d be too fearful about being written up for attendance.”

Bobbie Terrell, a collections technician and member of AFSCME Council 31 at a department in Peoria, Illinois, criticized American Red Cross for responding to power staffing shortages in her space by providing $1,500 signal on bonuses for brand new hires and paying them larger wages, whereas the solely appreciation or profit that longtime workers have acquired is pizza.

American Red Cross blood drive held at the Reservoir Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 30 March 2020.
American Red Cross blood drive held at the Reservoir church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 30 March 2020. {Photograph}: Cj Gunther/EPA

“The individuals they’ve employed since November are considerably making extra money than the workers who’ve been right here for years,” stated Terrell. “That’s a significant slap in the face to the present workers which have labored via this entire pandemic and never been supplied something however pizza.”

She additionally expressed frustration with American Red Cross’s proposal to chop the workers’ medical health insurance advantages, saying she is anxious that chopping healthcare will worsen staffing issues. She additionally criticized the group for not paying workers to quarantine after being uncovered to donors or coworkers who check optimistic for Covid-19.

“Workers are being despatched residence for 10 to 14 days at a time, unpaid,” added Terrell. “We’re on the frontlines doing the job for them of amassing these life-saving merchandise and principally they’re telling us that it’s at our personal danger.”

A spokesperson for American Red Cross claimed the non-profit plans to supply wage will increase and retention bonuses to present workers. However the spokesperson added that the group has not but reached an settlement with unions on the phrases and the way the raises can be applied, in addition to ongoing negotiations over healthcare.

They famous workers have been supplied with pay to quarantine in Spring 2020 and from 21 November 2020 to 2 April 2021.

“Throughout the nation, many employers are dealing with staffing shortages on account of pandemic employment traits and vaccination necessities, which have exacerbated the challenges to recruit and retain workers,” stated the spokesperson. “Over the previous few months, the Red Cross actively recruited to fill vacancies on our biomedical companies groups and have made important investments in extra sources and instruments to hunt out and appeal to candidates, together with new rent bonuses.”

The spokesperson added: “Our intention is to succeed in a good and amicable settlement with the Coalition of Red Cross Unions and all of our native unions.”

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