The three-day strike by some 200 unionized American Red Cross employees ended Friday night and the weary workers out on the picket line in Farmington are hoping it will jump start negotiations on a labor contract that expired 14 months ago.
“We’re hoping it does not impact the blood supply,” Aaron Mitchell, a driver technician from Newington, said Friday outside the Red Cross offices in Farmington.
Maintaining an adequate blood supply was important to the union and that’s why members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3145 in Connecticut and 800 workers in six others states decided not to make it an open-ended strike.
The nurses, phlebotomists, drivers, and laboratory technicians are protesting what they say are unfair labor practices, including a decision by the organization to change the health and pension benefits of the more than 200 union employees.
“They’re trying to take our right to bargain for insurance away, “ Bruce Haag, a driver technician, said Friday as he tended to the grill.
“These are the toughest negotiations we’ve ever faced,” Bill Ogo, another driver technician from Terryville, said Friday.
Holding his megaphone Ogo questioned drivers coming and leaving the facility.
“It’s the American Double-Cross,” Ogo shouted.
The driveway to the facility had the names of most the individuals that had crossed the picket line or were hired on a temporary basis for the strike.
“Those are the scabs,” Ogo said pointing to the “Wall of Shame.”
Currently there are five unfair labor practice complaints pending with the National Board of Labor Relations, Christine Holschlag, a phlebotomist and president of the union local, said. And those are just a few of the dozen complaints logged against the organization.
She said her members have faced intimidation, harassment and firings for speaking up about adverse working conditions.
In addition to unilaterally changing health and pension benefits Holschlag said the Red Cross is trying to eliminate registered nurses. She said there used to be 30 registered nurses, now they’re down to 11, which means one can’t be at every blood drive in the state.
Mitchell said the nurses are there for the donors to make sure they’re able to donate or help out if a donor has an adverse reaction.
“We just want it to be a safe experience for the donors,” Mitchell said. “Their safety is a big concern for us.”
Donna M. Morrissey, the director of public relations and corporate affairs at the Red Cross’ was unavailable for comment late Friday evening, but she said Saturday that the strike did not interfere with its shipment of blood products to hospitals.
Morrissey said the Red Cross has physicians on call 24 hours a day and safety at blood drives is a priority, any suggestion otherwise is a bargaining tactic by the union.
As of Saturday, Morrissey said everyone had returned to work and are operating on a normal schedule. She said the Red Cross looks forward to returning to the bargaining table on June 16.
“We can’t say what’s going to happen,” Haag said. “We’re hoping they listen.”