May 25, 2010; Source: Toledo Blade | We don’t read often about union efforts in the nonprofit sector, except perhaps in the hospitals where unionization rates are relatively high. This piece from the Toledo Blade references a planned strike by unionized blood-services workers at the American Red Cross’s regional headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, scheduled for June 2nd if the workers and the ARC don’t reach a new contract.

The Toledo strike would be one of seven to occur in different states—sponsored by different trade unions representing ARC blood-services workers. The Toledo strikers are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers. The other unions involved elsewhere include the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, the United Steelworkers, the Communications Workers of America, and the Office and Professional Employees International, representing ARC staff in Michigan, California, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, and West Virginia, all without new contracts.

According to the UFCW, the issue is benefits. The ARC, according to the union, wants to be able to change its employees’ health insurance coverage at any time on issues such as deductibles and costs. The ARC is disappointed that the UFCW and others plan to strike. We don’t see all that many union actions directed against nonprofits and very few involving multiple-union coordination like this one. How interesting that the issue isn’t salaries, but the predictability and reliability of health benefits in the wake of national health insurance reform.

Could it be that the blood-services workers worry that the American Red Cross might, like some for-profit employers are threatening to do, drop its health insurance policy thinking that the per-employee fine it would be hit with is cheaper than continuing to provide coverage?—Rick Cohen