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Red Cross workers picket at Waynesboro blood drive

January 06, 2000

Red Cross picketBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: Associated Press




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - About six striking Red Cross workers from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky picketed outside a Red Cross blood drive at the American Legion home on Main Street Thursday.

The 85-member Service Employees International Union Local 1199 is based in Huntington, W.Va., said Cheryl Gergely, Red Cross spokeswoman in Huntington.

The union has been on strike against the Tri-State Division of the Greater Alleghenies Region office of the Red Cross, also based in Huntington, since Dec. 16. At issue are salaries and benefits.

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The pickets protested at Waynesboro and at a blood drive in Shippensburg, Pa., Thursday.

They were in Pennsylvania because the 34-county Tri-State Division is merging with the larger, 66-county Johnstown Pa., Greater Alleghenies Region, said Mary Ann Spampinato, spokeswoman for the Johnstown group.

The two will form a 100-county blood-collecting conglomerate that will serve 120 hospitals in parts of six states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, Spampinato said.

Thursday's picketing had no effect on the number of donors or amount of blood collected, said Judy Bartholow, head of the Waynesboro blood drive.

She said the local chapter reached its goal of 195 pints from the 200 donors who showed up. She said the donors ignored the pickets and walked past them.

"We have a wonderful group of Red Cross supporters in Waynesboro," Bartholow said. "We knew our community would turn out even when people were asking them not to."

She called the picketing "totally stupid."

Al Bacon, union spokesman in Huntington, W.Va., has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

The strike marks the third time since 1990 that members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 have walked off the job over contract talks.

The union has been representing workers since 1990. The first strike in 1993 lasted six weeks, the second in 1997 about two weeks.

The current contract talks ended when the union voted 73-3 to reject the Tri-State Division's last offer.

Union members say they cannot accept a contract that asks them to pay nearly 50 percent more for health insurance while giving up paid holidays and sick days.

The 120 workers in the Johnstown division are represented by the Communications Workers of America union. Their contract expires next year, Spampinato said.

Blood is perishable, good for only 42 days, so hospitals need a constant supply. Critical shortages usually occur from mid-July through Labor Day and again in late December and early January.

Spampinato said there is currently a shortage of RH-negative, O-negative, A-negative and B-negative blood.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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