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Mich. Red Cross Workers Strike In Several Cities

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MUSKEGON (AP) – A strike by about 30 unionized Red Cross employees in Muskegon forced the cancellation of at least one blood drive Thursday.

The members of the Office and Professional Employees Local 459 were protesting what they claim are unfair labor practices, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.

Six workers in Holland also are on strike, as well as Red Cross employees in Kalamazoo and Petoskey, blood collection specialist Jason Hruskach told the Chronicle.

Some Red Cross workers in Lansing also walked a picket line, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Workers in other regions across the state were expected to strike over the next few days, Hruskach said.

Workers accused the Red Cross’ Great Lakes Blood Services Region of eliminating its pension plan and making changes to health insurance without bargaining. Workers pay 10 percent of their insurance premiums. The Red Cross has proposed increasing copays and pushing deductibles to $6,000.

“We don’t have an issue with an increase in costs,” union steward Cindy Krieger told the Chronicle. “The proposal they’re offering is unreasonable. We have members in our lab-clerical-distribution unit that, by the time they paid for their health care, would have nothing to live on.”

Krieger said workers have been without a contract since 2008.

The need for blood and cancellation of blood drives on the East Coast due to Hurricane Irene makes the Michigan strike “unconscionable and irresponsible,” said Sharon Jaska, chief executive of the Great Lakes Blood Services Region.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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