Red Cross, Union Workers Extend Acrimonious Contract Talks
Red Cross, Union Workers Extend Acrimonious Contract Talks

The American Red Cross and the Coalition of Red Cross Unions have agreed to a contract extension through June 30. The Coalition, which represents 3,000 workers within 10 labor groups at the American Red Cross, had been gearing up for a work stoppage at the end of May.

The extension marks the fourth since the contract expired on Sept. 30, 2021. While the two sides remain apart on issues regarding staffing levels, compensation and healthcare, since negotiations started they have reached tentative agreements on safety concerns, caregiver and parental leave and other issues.

Not all the blood workers are sanguine about the progress of the negotiations. On May 26, officials at the Wisconsin branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board that accused the Red Cross of bargaining in bad faith. AFSCME locals 1205 and 1558 represent 300 employees in Wisconsin and northern Iowa.

In a statement announcing the filing of the complaint, representatives from AFSCME Wisconsin claimed that since the contract’s Sept. 30 expiration, “Red Cross management has met with the two employee bargaining committees only once each. In total, they’ve canceled or rescheduled as many as 21 sessions.”

Red Cross management denied the allegations made by AFSCME Wisconsin. “The Red Cross has received a local unfair labor practice charge from AFSCME in Wisconsin, and is disputing the allegations at the National Labor Relations Board,” a Red Cross spokesperson wrote to The NonProfit Times. “The parties have agreed to several bargaining extensions due to National Negotiations; nevertheless, the Red Cross is committed to reaching a local contract agreement in Wisconsin that is fair and equitable to all and remains available for continued negotiations.”

An ASCME spokesperson characterized the repeated contract extensions differently. “Frontline [American Red Cross] workers are getting frustrated that management continues to punt the ball down the field, rather than negotiate in good faith,” the spokesperson wrote to The NonProfit Times. “As they continue to delay, more and more workers are leaving – which is making the staffing crisis worse.”

The National Labor Relations Board isn’t the only government body being brought to bear on the negotiations. On May 10, 47 members of the U.S. House sent a letter to Red Cross management supporting a collective bargaining agreement. A copy of the letter was not immediately available.

“There are a number of negotiation sessions scheduled in the weeks to come in hopes of reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable to all,” the Red Cross spokesperson wrote to The NonProfit Times.