After a three-week strike, American Red Cross workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania agreed to a 90-day cooling-off period and returned to work June 16. Under the terms of the agreement, the 250 blood-service workers will maintain their current contract terms and protections while negotiations resume.
The strike began May 24 after negotiations failed to produce a settlement that the union members believed would ensure safe conditions for workers and donors. Red Cross also had demanded that workers waive their collective bargaining rights over healthcare coverage before addressing the staffing, scheduling and training issues raised by the union members. (See earlier story.)
The union (the AFT-affiliated Health Professionals and Allied Employees) and Red Cross met with a federal mediator to hammer out the agreement to resume negotiations. Seven bargaining sessions already have been scheduled through July.
"This will work if Red Cross bargains fairly over the next 90 days to produce a fair settlement that protects workers' rights while ensuring safe working conditions and safety for donors and the blood supply," says Renee Conyers, co-president of HPAE Local 5103. "We are glad that we will be able to return to our mission of providing a safe and adequate blood supply to our New Jersey and Philadelphia communities."
The union members are determined to continue letting the public know about their safety concerns, and are participating in a national coalition of Red Cross workers in a campaign to "Keep the Blood Supply Safe."
Throughout the strike, community and labor leaders, and elected officials appeared on the picket line supporting the workers, and urging the resumption of bargaining. HPAE president and AFT vice president Ann Twomey says the return to work is due to the efforts of community and labor leaders as well as elected officials, in particular U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and Philadelphia City Council member James Kenney. [HPAE press release]
June 16, 2011