AMERICAN RED CROSS Blood drive workers strike over health care
A union official said workers plan to return after a three-day strike.
STAFF AND WIRE REPORT
YOUNGSTOWN -- Area hospitals provided with blood by the Greater Alleghenies Region, American Red Cross Blood Services, said they don't expect to be affected by a strike by 160 Red Cross employees who work blood drives.
The striking employees, who serve as health historians, phlebotomists and drivers at blood drives, are members of Local 13000 of the Communication Workers of America and walked off their jobs Sunday.
The union's three-year contract had expired Dec. 15 but both sides had agreed to extend the old pact while negotiations continued.
A Red Cross spokeswoman said the agency was given a 20-day strike notice Jan. 8 and the workers went on strike Sunday.
"We are not expecting any problems at this point," said Ed Newmeyer, spokesman for Sharon Regional Health System in Sharon.
The Red Cross sent notice of the impending strike last week, as well as details of a contingency plan to keep hospitals on its service list supplied with blood, he said.
"We haven't had any problems as of yet," said Lori Jackson, a nursing supervisor at East Liverpool Hospital. We do have our own blood bank. We have a lot of storage [of blood products]," she said.
In Ellwood City
A nursing supervisor at Ellwood City Hospital said the facility was aware of the impending strike from various news stories. No problems are anticipated, she said.
Other hospitals in the region served by the Greater Alleghenies Region are Trinity Medical Center in Steubenville and The Medical Center in Beaver, Pa.
The strike will also have some impact on blood collection activities in parts of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
The strike is over a management proposal for blood collectors, phlebotomists and drivers to pay more for their health care benefits.
Recent negotiations failed to produce a new contract, and no new talks were scheduled.
Susan Walls, a union official, said she was among roughly 120 workers picketing outside the headquarters of the Greater Alleghenies Red Cross in Johnstown on Sunday afternoon.
"At the moment, we're doing a three-day strike," she said. "We're trying to work Wednesday."
The union was hoping to secure a new contract in the coming days, though no further negotiations have been scheduled, Walls said. Barring a lockout, the employees plan to return to work -- at least temporarily -- and "hope for the best," she said.
The union represents about 160 of the 700 workers employed by the Red Cross' Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region.
Jim Starr, chief executive officer of the agency, said the Red Cross chapter was relying on blood supplies from other chapters across the country, and that shipments had already been sent in anticipation of a strike.
Blood drives to continue
He has said blood drives would continue as scheduled.
Marianne Spampinato, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said there were nearly 50 nonunion supervisors and team leaders qualified to hold blood drives, and that administrators were seeking other nonunion workers to step in for striking bloodmobile drivers.
In a statement released Saturday, union spokeswoman Marge Krueger said some Red Cross proposals would have required workers to pay a deductible plus 10 percent to 15 percent of their hospital bills -- on top of a high deductible and a 20 percent copay.
Starr has said that the Red Cross proposed wage increases, more holiday and vacation time and a plan to cap workers' share of their health insurance premiums at 20 percent.
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