Carol Biliczky

The American Red Cross has found little success luring striking employees back to work with mandatory training.

Spokeswoman Christy Sabaka said 25 strikers returned to work Feb. 20 for five days of training; six others began the training Monday.

That is about 12 percent of the 250 workers who staff the blood collection drives in 19 Ohio counties, including Summit and Stark.

“We have communicated with staff and encouraged them to come to work to complete this training,” which is part of a national initiative to update manual processes, Sabaka said.

The four-year contract between the Northern Ohio Blood Services Region and Teamsters Local 507 ended in May. Talks broke off Feb. 9, and workers struck Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, the biggest collection day of the year.

A sharp reduction in collections over the past two weeks has not affected Northeast Ohio hospitals because the Red Cross is importing blood from other parts of the country to compensate.

The Cleveland-based work stoppage is one of more than a dozen strikes that have peppered the organization over the past year. On its website, the nonprofit says it has been forced to take cost-cutting measures out of economic necessity and nationwide has offered unions the same pay and benefits packages nonunion employees receive.

Eight union contracts have been settled with a ninth in sight, according to the Red Cross.

In Cleveland, Local 507 President Al Mixon said workers are seeking a better health-care package and improved working conditions in which they do not have to spend long hours on their feet without breaks.

He said the company is telling employees, in essence, that, “This training is going on with or without you and only so many classes will be available after the two-week window of classes end.”

He called it “leverage to force people to get back to work.”

A mediator has been called in, but no talks have been scheduled.

The first strike in the history of the Northern Ohio blood services organization will move into its third week Wednesday.

Red Cross nonunion workers staffed a limited number of blood drives in the first week of the strike. They collected nothing last week because of the training.

The nonprofit has a modest goal of 450 pints for this week — less than 10 percent of the 4,600 pints it normally would collect.

Employees who crossed the picket line for the training will be scheduled for the limited blood drives now in place, Sabaka said.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.