Local blood collection workers at the American Red Cross say the organization needs to beef up safety and worker protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least 10 employees have contracted COVID-19, and dozens more have isolated for 14 days or more due to COVID exposures, according to AFSCME, the union representing about 125 of the blood collection workers across the region.
Bobbi Terell, a collections specialist at the American Red Cross in Peoria, said those workers aren't paid during quarantine, adding that puts them and their families families in some tough spots.
"A lot of our people here do have children, and it's hard to run a household with no pay," Terell said. "When you're missing two weeks of pay, it's just putting a burden on families."
Unionized Red Cross employees picketed outside the blood donation center on John Gwynn Avenue on Thursday.
The union also claims the Red Cross didn't implement or enforce proper safety procedures, and failed to notify employees of potential COVID exposures. Some employees also reported allegedly being disciplined for not returning to work while displaying COVID-like symptoms.
The Red Cross Illinois Region declined an interview request with WCBU. While the organization didn't respond to WCBU's specific written questions on its employee quarantine pay policy, the agency issued a statement on procedures in place to ensure the safety of both donors and staff during the pandemic.
"The Red Cross adheres to the highest standards of safety and infection control and has implemented additional precautions to ensure the well-being of our donors and staff during this outbreak. Each day, employees undergo a standard health assessment prior to the start of their work day including a temperature check before arrival. In addition, we ask staff to remain at home if they are experiencing any symptoms," the statement said.
The Red Cross said employees are required to wear face masks and gloves. They said hand sanitizer is available throughout the blood donation process, and social distancing is encouraged whenever possible.
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