Since the days of Clara Barton, the public has come to know the American Red Cross as a humanitarian organization, with lots of volunteers that help people in need. While this is true, the public’s view is based moreso upon the Disaster Services section of the Red Cross. Most are unaware that this section is completely separate from the Blood Services section.
The Blood Services part of the Red Cross is the part that is on strike right now in Cleveland. Blood Services has NOTHING to do with the Disaster Services section whatsoever. Blood Services is the section of the Red Cross that holds community, corporate and school blood drives, along with various fixed locations for blood donation. While the blood that is donated is given voluntarily with no monetary concession, the blood in its transfusable form is sold to hospitals. Yes, you read that right, donated blood is sold to hospitals. The blood is sold to the hospital where they charge insurance for the transfusion, and in some cases the blood itself. The cost of medical care is not cheap, so one can only imagine the cost of a pint of blood.
The Blood Services staff are paid individuals that are required to have weeks of training before they can actually go out into the field and work at a blood drive. They are highly skilled individuals that are required to follow strict standards set forth by the FDA for the safe collection of blood. These people are not volunteers, they drive sometimes hours to get to a blood drive 45 minutes before the first donor is taken to set up all the equipment (beds, tables, move furniture, etc.) and then after working the length of the blood drive, stay as long as it takes to get the last donor out and return the site to its original condition. In many cases, this means moving tables, chairs and other large objects that were moved at the start of the day to have the blood drive.
These are the people that are asking for a small increase in pay, affordable insurance, and safer working conditions that are needed to insure that the blood is taken in a safe manner and they can work to the best of their ability. Unfortunately the lack of information given to the public has proved to be a downfall for these workers who are being called “greedy, union thugs”. Unless you are lucky enough to know one of these people that sacrifice so much for a job they love, you will never realize what a difficult job it is. Although it is a difficult job, the rewards of knowing that for each pint of blood you draw can potentially help three people makes it all worth it.
The next time you donate blood, talk to the person who is taking care of you, and know that they truly love their job and appreciate you being there. They do not enjoy telling you that you have to wait longer than you want to, and improvement in their staffing would make a donor’s experience much better, as well as safer.