AMERICAN RED CROSS: LABOR DISPUTES AND BLOOD SAFETY PROBLEMS
WHEREAS, the American Red Cross (ARC) is well known as one of the largest disaster relief organizations serving domestic and international communities in need; the ARC is also the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States, controlling more than 40 percent of the U.S. blood supply; and
WHEREAS, blood drives are big business for the ARC, generating $2.2 billion in revenues in 2009; and
WHEREAS, because of repeated and extensive violations of Food and Drug Administration regulations designed to protect blood donors and the blood supply, the ARC has been operating under a Federal Consent Decree to improve its blood safety practices since 1993 and since 2003, the FDA has fined ARC $21 million for repeated safety failures; and
WHEREAS, in its editorial titled "Black Marks for the Red Cross," the New York Times said, "The organization's sloppy procedures and its lethargy in investigating possible harm have put untold numbers of Americans at risk"; and
WHEREAS, the ARC has been particularly irresponsible in failing to follow the recommendations in the medical literature that teen donors be screened for height and weight because they are more likely to have adverse reactions and injuries when giving blood; and
WHEREAS, the ARC fails to enforce its 2009 teen donor height and weight requirements by gender, relying solely on teen self-reports of height and weight rather than actually measuring and weighing teen donors to determine their eligibility, despite reports that teens do not accurately self-report this information; and
WHEREAS, the ARC does not provide parents with the information they need to make informed decisions as to whether their child should donate blood, in that the ARC's parental consent forms do not notify parents about the height and weight eligibility requirements; and
WHEREAS, at the heart of ARC's safety problems are cost-cutting measures that amount to running blood drives like fast-food operations, including frequently understaffing blood drives, assigning workers to regular 16-hour days and downgrading staff by eliminating the most experienced, licensed medical personnel, creating a low-morale, high-turnover workplace and increasing the risk of safety errors on the job; and
WHEREAS, the ARC's most aggressive anti-worker policies have been directed at more than 3,000 employees who are represented by unions, including more than 200 unfair labor practice charges filed against the ARC with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1996 to 2007. Between 1998 and 2007, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) was brought in 152 times in labor-management conflicts involving 10 different national unions at sites across the country; and
WHEREAS, in response, unions representing Red Cross workers have joined together to form a coalition that is coordinating bargaining with the ARC, including HPAE/AFT, AFSCME, SWA, OPEIU, UAW, and USW, as well as several unaffiliated unions, including IBT, UFCW and SEIU, with the AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department assisting the coalition by coordinating bargaining and campaign strategy; and
WHEREAS, currently nine local unions have expired labor contracts with ARC, and some of these agreements have been expired more than one year, and eight more contracts are set to expire by the end of June 2010; and
WHEREAS, ARC is also using delay tactics to stop workers at two locations from obtaining first contracts, as part of a clearly stated union avoidance strategy that ARC Human Resources has identified as one of its top priorities:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers stand in solidarity with all Red Cross workers who are fighting for fair labor contracts and working conditions that will safeguard the safety of blood donors and the blood supply. ARC's attempts to implement contract concessions are aimed at undermining workers' rights and silencing the voice that workers have on the job; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT and its locals:
1. Take steps to educate and inform parents, through local Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), regarding the teen donor safety requirements.
2. Work with PTAs to demand that ARC implement policies and practices to ensure that parents are informed of the teen donor safety requirements and those teens are weighed and measured before being allowed to donate at high school blood drives.
3. Call on ARC to comply with federal labor law and to begin bargaining in good faith with the growing list of unions that have members working under expired contracts.
4. Explore alternative blood drive operators and, where feasible, direct members to donate blood though these alternative operators.
5. Contact their local United Way Agencies and request that they contact ARC to demand that ARC respect the collective bargaining process, consistent with United Way policy.