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Louis and Anches also claim they were passed over for promotions because they are black and say South Florida Blood Banks has few, if any, minorities in positions of power. South Florida Blood Banks officials deny that accusation. At the October meeting with New Times,they said they would produce a list of positions filled by minority employees. However, their e-mailed response November 1 stated only: "We have an equally wide variety of minority managers from the senior management level to line supervisors."
The suit filed by Louis and Anches also claims that South Florida Blood Banks deliberately scams donors by telling them their donations will help poor children overseas. The West Palm company launched the Children's World Blood Bank in March with the promise of helping 10,000 children a year in poor countries. Flynn kicked off the effort with a $2,500-a-plate dinner at the Breakers. Attendees included Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Mikhail Gorbachev headlined a second event earlier this month, with tickets at $350 a pop. Despite the hype, no blood has been sent out of the country, and South Florida Blood Banks admits it isn't sure when it will begin shipping blood overseas. Yet promotional material notes that the blood bank has agreed "to donate ten units of blood monthly to designated hospitals in countries where there is a critical need for safe blood."
South Florida Blood Banks officials say Louis and Anches are merely disgruntled former employees. The firm does require its workers to sign noncompete waivers, board member Lyman concedes, but that's only a response to Community Blood Centers' "raiding" of its staff. And Louis and Anches, he says, gain by making the claims in the lawsuit because hurting their former employer can only help their output at their new jobs. "All I'll say," he adds, "is consider the source."
Kelly Jewell looks around nervously in the cramped entranceway to the Special Olympics office in West Palm Beach. The office is housed in a trailer with a wheelchair ramp to the front door, and Jewell stands in the front room with a stack of pamphlets sandwiched between her palms.
Jewell, a blood drive recruiter for Community Blood Centers, is not easily pegged as a salesperson. The 40-something blond, who's wearing sneakers and comfortable slacks, isn't pushy or forceful. She's a former doctor who retired after getting fed up with HMOs. It's not hard to promote drives, she says. "We don't have to jump up and down to sell a blood drive," Jewell admits in her SUV on her way to the Special Olympics office. "People know they're doing good."
A respectable-looking manager comes out to greet Jewell. She hands him a pamphlet that boasts of the three people, on average, who can be saved by every donation. She also provides a purple flier asking for blood "in honor of" two Palm Beach County 14-year-olds mentioned by name who can have "more tomorrows" if blood is donated. And Jewell entices the manager with promotional incentives for donors including T-shirts, coupons to gambling cruises, and passes for free golf games. "I'll have to present this to the Special Olympics board," admits the manager, who asked that his name not be used.
Outside, Jewell isn't deterred. "They're going to do it," she says. "It's a shoo-in."
This year, Jewell became Community Blood Centers' first Palm Beach County recruiter. It is the Fort Lauderdale firm's way of challenging South Florida Blood Banks on its own territory in the cut-throat world of donor recruitment. Next year, the battle will heat up when Community opens a facility in Hypoluxo to relocate several recruiters now based in Broward. Both blood banks have quotas for their staffs of salespeople: To remain employed, they must recruit as many as 800 donors to give blood every month.
The competition has become so ferocious that the blood banks accuse each other of weaseling in on drives. Both say their competitor's mobile units sometimes show up hours or days early at blood drive sites to steal potential donors (and donors can give only once every two months). South Florida Blood Banks declined to give examples of this, but Community employees produced a list of about a dozen cases. New Times, however, was unable to verify claims from either side.
The dispute has even dissuaded some people from giving blood, says Mayte McConnell, a supervisor at Memorial Blood Bank, the third-largest in the area. Memorial collects about 24,000 units a year, a fraction of the blood garnered by the big two, and ships it mainly to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood. "The Publixes and car dealers are sick of us calling them and bugging them," McConnell says. "[South Florida Blood Banks and Community Blood Centers] have given them a bad impression of what blood banking is like. They're both at it for the money... and the competition is just hurting them."