Hundreds of Red Cross and Minneapolis-St. Paul airport workers just formed unions

Red Cross staff went from a blood drive to a union drive.

Red Cross staff went from a blood drive to a union drive.

If you tried to guess a good day for organized labor in Minnesota, you probably wouldn't pick one that lands less than a week after Donald Trump won the White House and Republicans won the House and Senate in Minnesota.

Then again, maybe now's exactly the right time. Sitting on a stack of union cards? Sign 'em if you got 'em. 

Organized labor in the Twin Cities celebrated two separate, small, but significant victories on Monday, as workers in two lines of work were informed their unions would be certified. In one camp are some 300 staffers for the North Central Region Red Cross, which provides emergency relief in Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and eastern South Dakota. 

They include phlebotomists (a big word for the people sticking donors during a blood drive), couriers, "frontline workers," and their supervisors, according to a story in the Union Advocate. Eligible members cast their votes on forming a union in October, and backed the move by a three-to-one margin. 

They'll be joining the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, which typically draws from the ranks of public sector employees, as its name implies. The Upper Midwest bargaining unit is the first one formed under terms AFSCME and other unions set with the Red Cross in 2013. 

The next order of business is actually agreeing on a contract with the Red Cross, a major nonprofit organization with annual revenues approaching $3 billion. AFSCME Council 5 organizer Marybeth Juetten acknowledged agreeing to terms might be complicated by the logistics of the operation. 

“This group never sits still,” Juetten said. “They work all over the map, whenever and wherever blood mobiles are in demand.”

It's exactly the opposite for the other employees who announced newfound bargaining power Monday. Those people, you know where to find: Just show up at the airport any day of the year, they'll be there somewhere. Actually they'll be there everywhere

Several hundred Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport workers learned yesterday that a majority of their group had signed union cards, and would be organizing under the umbrella of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 union.

According to a press release, most of the newly minted union members work keeping airplane cabins clean, lugging passengers' bags around, driving the elderly in carts and the disabled in wheelchairs, and ferrying unaccompanied minors from gate to gate.

The "vast majority" of those affected by Monday's news are East African, and many have been organizing since 2013 under a campaign calling for an "Airport that Works for All of Us." 

Said Misrak Anbesse, who hustles to clean airplanes between flights: "We’re all working together for a better life for our families. I know the community here in Minnesota will keep supporting us as we bargain a good contract and work to raise wages at the airport even more."