Red Cross Nurses Walk Off Job
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ About 200 nurses that handle blood donations for the American Red Cross in Los Angeles and Orange counties walked off the job Sunay a day after voting down a contract offer.
The Red Cross canceled 11 scheduled Sunday trips by bloodmobiles, mostly to churches, said agency spokesman Ralph Wright.
″We decided to cancel the bloodmobiles for the safety of donors,″ Wright said, It could be several days before mobile service is fully restored, he said.
The agency denied that the action would affect the area’s blood supply.
Dozens of chanting strikers picketed outside the Los Angeles Red Cross Blood Services Center and at another center in Van Nuys.
The dispute between Local 535 of the Service Employees International Union and the Red Cross centers on staffing, unscheduled reassignments and management refusal to pay licensed vocational nurses as much as registered nurses, said union spokeswoman Theresa Conrow.
More than 180 of the 225 nurses who handle blood donations for the Red Cross voted and turned down the contract by 2-1, Ms. Conrow said.
The union initially had threatened to walk out last Thursday but waited until a vote of members could be taken. The union’s contract expired last Tuesday.
Wright disputed a statement by Dee Contreras, the local’s chief negotiator, that a walkout would increase problems with already scarce blood supplies in the two counties.
″For us, until we see otherwise, it is business as usual,″ he said. ″We have in excess of 100 percent of desired levels of blood in all groups and types.″
The agency has 17,000 units of blood on hand for the two counties, he said.
The union, which represents registered and licensed vocational nurses and technicians, sought a 6 percent, across-the-board raise for the first year of a three-year contract, followed by slightly lesser pay hikes. The Red Cross offered 4 percent, plus an additional 5 percent for LVNs for the first year, Ms. Conrow said.
Red Cross nurses are among the lowest paid in Southern California, Ms. Contreras said.
Top monthly pay for a Red Cross registered nurse is about $2,041, compared to $2,200 paid to entry-level registered nurses working for Kaiser Permanente hospitals, she said.
Red Cross LVNs make about $1,570 a month, she said.
Union negotiators also wanted contract language gauranteeing a minimum staffing ratio of one nurse to every three blood donors.