Red Cross Workers To Strike Ahead Of Holidays

Despite the year’s largest blood drive set to begin before Christmas, unionized Red Cross workers in Wisconsin voted to walk off the job on Dec. 23.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Locals 1205 and 1558 in Madison and Green Bay voted for the work stoppage. This, not coincidentally, is right on time to spoil the Red Cross’ 37th annual Holiday Blood Drive.

AFSCME officials say they have been attempting to bargain for a new contract since August 2021, but they charged Red Cross officials only attended one meeting.

In fact, the union reports that management canceled or rescheduled 21 meetings. Leaders claim that when management did meet with them, they were told that “there was no money left for them because they spent it all on raises for workers in other states.”

The local members received support from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which said that the “Wisconsin labor movement proudly stands in solidarity” with the potential strikers.

Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of the state organization, said the workers deserve “quality wages and a fair union contract.” She added that the Red Cross staff gives an “essential service” for hundreds of communities across the state.

The Red Cross counters that it offered lump sum bonuses, increases in annual wages, safety enhancements, improvements in health care benefits, and a new Paid Family Leave benefit.

The current contract between the Red Cross and its AFSCME employees ends on Dec. 15.

President of Green Bay Local 1205 Kristena Schmitz said that her members have “exhausted all attempts to bargain in good faith” and have no options left other than to strike. She confirmed that if an agreement is not reached by Dec. 15, union workers will walk off the job.

Further, without an agreement, the workers plan to create a picket line outside the Red Cross’ Holiday Blood Drive in Madison. There they will ask the public to join them in protesting against the annual effort.

To picket and protest something as critical as the Red Cross’ largest annual blood drive is a remarkable and frankly disturbing action. Surely the Wisconsin union members are able to devise a better way — or at least time — to make their voices heard.