PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Red Cross workers from the Central Illinois Chapter in Peoria demonstrated Monday to fight for a better contract.
Members of Union ACSME Local 2691 joined an 11-union coalition representing about 5,000 Red Cross employees across the country.
They have been negotiating a new contract for eight months, and that process is ongoing.
They claimed the recent blood crisis was not due to a shortage of blood, but a shortage of staff. They said donors have been turned away from drives for that reason.
Bobbie Terrell, the president of Local 2691 as well as a collection specialist, spoke out about her concerns as a Red Cross employee.
“Right now, staff morale is very low. We’re tired, tired of working without enough staff to do the job, tired of concerns not being heard, tired of feeling like we’re talking to a brick wall,” Terrell said.
To further exacerbate the worker shortage, the Red Cross is bringing back drives that were cut during the height of the pandemic. Now, those drives are back (at schools, churches, etc.) but protesters said there is simply not enough staff already, and this spreads them thinner.
Terrell noted two things the organization could do now to make working conditions better.
“To stop messing with our health insurance, I think, is the number one thing. And to staff us properly,” she said.
The top priority for most is health insurance, she said.
“To my knowledge, it would be a significant increase to the portions that the employees already pay to keep the type of healthcare we have now,” she said.
“We have several veteran staff that are only here– are staying on– as employees because of the healthcare. So we’re in danger of losing them if our healthcare is cut,” she continued.
Among their complaints, they also said they were not given proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during peak moments of the pandemic.
“Employees are exposed to COVID-19 from donors, and they’re not protected,” Terrell said. “There was a slight period where they actually paid us to be off for exposure. But for the most part, employees have burned all their PTO [paid time off] and are just not taking a paycheck for the times that they’ve been off for exposure through work.”
Shortly after the demonstration this morning, the American Red Cross issued a statement in response, stating they are continuing negotiations to reach the “best possible agreement.”
It also stated: “We recognize that informational picketing, rallies, media outreach, and other activities take place as part of the bargaining process – especially leading up to the end of a contract. The Red Cross respects the rights of our employees to engage in legally protected activity.”
The response also noted that the current contract extensions with Red Cross unions expire May 31st.