Red Cross Workers, Hamden Cafeteria Workers Gain Through Contract Settlements

Collective bargaining agreements reached in recent weeks with private sector employers for working women and men represented by Council 4 AFSCME-affiliated local unions provide a template on how to organize for power and build solidarity.

The individual contracts, impacting nearly 200 members of AFSCME Local 3145 (CT Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross) and nearly 30 members of AFSCME Local 1303-275 (Hamden School Cafeteria/Whitson’s Culinary Group), included significant gains that provide solid footing for the future.

Each agreement was also the product of collective efforts demonstrating our union’s belief that “we’re stronger together” at a time of unparalleled assaults, both legislative and judicial, on labor rights and freedoms.

On Sept. 24, Local 1303-275 members ratified a three-year collective bargaining they collectively described as their best settlement ever since the Hamden Board of Education outsourced cafeteria services almost 20 years ago.

Highlights of the agreement include wage increases totaling 6% along with pay equity adjustments to begin addressing chronic wage disparities with other school districts, and increased paid time off.

“As a union, we have stayed strong and united through tough times,” said Anna Ferrucci, a 24-year cafeteria worker and president of the bargaining unit. “This is the best contract we’ve ever had. We feel like human beings again. We feel respected.”

During ratification, Local1303-275 members said the settlement would go a long way toward promoting worker retention. 

Council 4 Staff Representative Kelly Martinez (now our union’s Organizing Coordinator) represented Local 1303-275 in negotiations. “I’m so proud of our members,” she said. “Their hard work and dedication brought this contract home.”

“We’re in a much better place than we’ve ever been,” Ferrucci added.

Joining Martinez and Ferrucci on the local union bargaining committee were Jackie Camputaro, Anna Marie DeStefano, Kim Lee, Shari McDermott, and Jackie Sannino.

On Oct. 14, front line blood collection workers at the Red Cross ratified both their three-year local union agreement and a national contract addendum in coalition with other Red Cross unions across the country.

Local 3145 leaders credited both the participation of rank-and-file members in the effort as well as an overall focus on retaining workers, protecting donor safety and safeguarding the national blood supply.

"Our new agreement wasn't just a victory for members, but for the donor community, too," said Local 3145 President Joseph Tine, a blood collection technician for the Red Cross.

Council 4 Staff Representative Scott Soares, who advocated for Local 3145 in both national coalition and local unit negotiations, said the Red Cross union coalition’s proposals centered on investing in employees, decreasing turnover, and saving millions of dollars.

The resulting agreement included wage increases totaling 8.25% over three years, improved health care benefits, a paid time off pilot program and direct input in blood drive staffing plans. There were no concessions.

The coalition also fought for improved workplace safety for all bargaining unit employees. The new contract gives workers more rights to voice their safety concerns and time off between shifts, so they can be rested and safely perform their work.

Click here to watch a video featuring Red Cross union coalition workers, including Local 3145 Vice President Jessica Shuck, a blood collection technician and member of the national coalition bargaining team:

Members of these two Council 4 bargaining units were not immediately impacted by the recent Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which imposed the “Right to Work for Less” practice on all public sector workers.

That didn’t stop Local 3145 and Local 1303-275 members from taking advantage of a contract ratification to affirm their commitment to being “Union Strong” by signing their Council 4 membership cards.

“It doesn’t matter where we work. We have to stop ‘Right to Work for Less’ and all the attacks on unions,” Martinez observed. “We have to stand together to preserve and protect what we’ve gained by bargaining together.”