American Red Cross Cuts Jobs, Consolidates Programs

To ward off a projected deficit, the American Red Cross has cut more than fifteen hundred jobs nationwide during 2011 as well as a number of local programs not aligned strategically with its core mission, the Associated Press reports.

The second major overhaul in recent years by the disaster relief organization has resulted in the elimination of about 1,000 positions at its local and regional chapters, 170 jobs at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and 400 positions in its biomedical and blood services division. In addition, a number of chapters have been consolidated or closed, and the remaining chapters — about 600, down from 800 in 2006 — have been directed to plan for disasters in coordination with other organizations in their region. Red Cross volunteers also are now required to follow a standard set of rules, unlike in the past when individual chapters established their own rules.

Richard Lee, who heads the Pioneer Valley chapter in Massachusetts, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that the nationwide mandate actually has had a positive effect on the work of the four branches serving western and central parts of the state. Indeed, after Tropical Storm Irene hit in late August, causing severe damage in Berkshire County, the Berkshire chapter was able to mount an emergency relief campaign at a faster pace than it would have prior to the overhaul, Lee said.

Red Cross president Gail McGovern told the AP that the organization had little choice but to restructure to avoid a budget shortfall while coping with this year's disasters. But while it did make significant cuts, McGovern insists that the organization's core programs, including disaster relief and managing half the nation's supply of donated blood and blood plasma, have not been impaired. "If there was any doubt in anyone's mind that we would be able to fulfill the mission, that doubt was removed," said McGovern. "If anything, we're doing it better."

Chad Cain. "Red Cross Overhaul Affects Area Chapters." Daily Hampshire Gazette 11/29/2011. Chad Cain. "Red Cross Overhaul Affects Area Chapters." Daily Hampshire Gazette 11/29/2011.