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Nurses may strike

Red Cross staff dispute wages, benefits, practices in contract.

May 19, 2010|By Veronica Rocha

SOUTH GLENDALE — American Red Cross medical employees on Wednesday announced plans to strike over a proposed contract they said would affect their health benefits and minimize staffing at blood collection drives.

More than 300 nurses, blood collectors and other medical professionals have been in contract negotiations with Red Cross administrators since March, but have come to loggerheads regarding donor safety measures and restrictions to their health benefit options, said Therese Mendoza, a registered nurse with the organization. The represented workers are based at Red Cross facilities throughout Southern California.

Employees voted May 2 to strike, she said.

“We are asking for a fair contract that maintains affordable family health care and fair wages,” Mendoza said at a news conference outside the organization’s Glendale-Crescenta Valley Chapter on South Brand Boulevard.

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The employees have also been disputing a new blood collection practice, Mendoza said.

Two medical staffers are currently required to be with blood donors at collection sites, she said. But that protocol would change under the proposed contract to just one employee.

Maintaining the current policy is critical because donors are strapped to machines that supply medication while their blood is being extracted and filtered, she said.

“We feel that is very unsafe to not have two people there with those donors at all times,” Mendoza said. “If you need help, you might need another person to help you, and you may have other donors on the machines as well.”

The new policy could also result in staff reductions, Mendoza said.

“They refused to pull that proposal off the table,” she said.

The Service Employees International Union Local 721 also wanted to ensure that height and weight measures are used for teen blood donors to avoid medical complications.

Glendale school board member Nayiri Nahabedian, a longtime union supporter, urged the Red Cross to ensure that safety precautions were in place for teen blood donors.

“If the Red Cross and our community are to rely on teens for a large part of our blood supply, then we must also be committed to their safety,” she said.

Employees also pushed for a registered nurse to be on duty at all times at mobile collection drives to deal with any blood-related complications.

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