Red Cross contract dispute threatens org’s reputation

HARTFORD, CT: A strike of American Red Cross blood-collection workers in Connecticut has forced the cancellation of most local blood drives and left the organization fighting to safeguard its golden reputation.

HARTFORD, CT: A strike of American Red Cross blood-collection workers in Connecticut has forced the cancellation of most local blood drives and left the organization fighting to safeguard its golden reputation.

HARTFORD, CT: A strike of American Red Cross blood-collection

workers in Connecticut has forced the cancellation of most local blood

drives and left the organization fighting to safeguard its golden

reputation.



Reports that blood-collection rates have dropped from 600 to 100 pints

per day since the start of the strike on May 1 have undermined public

confidence in the organization, as have the media’s regular airings of

pro-union messages calling for more respect and better pay. The strike,

involving about 200 employees who lead blood drives across the state, is

the first by Red Cross workers in Connecticut in 25 years.



While local observers believe the Red Cross has responded quickly and

effectively to assuage public fears, they also warn that the

organization needs to present strong reasons for holding out on worker

demands or risk losing its public-service halo.



’The attempts by the Red Cross to meet public needs has kept them from

being established as the bad guy in the press,’ said Andrea Obston,

president of Andrea Marketing Communications in Connecticut. She added

that the group’s strategy seems focused on reassuring the public,

patients and donors that blood supply is unlikely to dry up any time

soon.



Late last month, the situation escalated when the AFL-CIO asked its

265,000 state members to boycott blood drives until the contract dispute

is settled.



’Asking people not to donate blood is a drastic move,’ said Larry Kamer,

managing director of GCI Public Affairs in San Francisco. ’The Red Cross

is missing an opportunity to assign the union leadership some of the

responsibility for calling the public’s health into question.’



The Red Cross has been contacting donors by phone, maintaining an

average of one blood drive per day and spreading word that local

hospitals are being supplemented with out-of-state blood supplies.

’We’ve tried to emphasize to donors and the media that there is a higher

calling here - helping people,’ said Lynn Townshend, communications

manager for the American Red Cross in Connecticut. ’No patient needs

will go unmet.’



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