By ED FINKELSTEIN
As of Jan. 1, only $31,900 remained in the $5 for the Fight Fund with several dozen requests for crisis help still in process. A few examples (with names withheld):
- Laborer –in ill health, unable to work, his wife is working two jobs, trying to support their four children; water and electric about to be shut-off.
- School bus driver – a single mother working part-time, recently homeless but now in an apartment; has shut-off notice on electric. Will be evicted if utility is shut off.
- Mechanic - 64 years old, laid-off after more than 20 years of steady employment; serious health issues developed following the layoff. He’s now working several part-time jobs and living in his car.
Each and every case breaks your heart. And there are many more.
An average of 416 families each year apply for emergency help from the Fight Fund, which pays out an average of $124,700 to cover families’ rent, utilities medical expenses and other bills each year.
Already this year, 36 families have had a crisis need met and several dozen are in the approval process.
477 FAMILIES HELPED LAST YEAR
Even with thousands of union families in crisis, the generosity of labor families and fellow union members presents a positive story:
In 2014, $125,270 was paid out to cover the expenses of 477 families from 78 different unions. Payments, which are made directly to vendors not to individuals in crisis, included rent and mortgage payments, utilities, food, medicines, medical bills and unforeseen circumstances. All assistance provided remains confidential.
CLOSING ON $1 MILLION IN AID
At the end of 2014, the $5 for the Fight campaign was only $10,000 shy of raising $1 million since its inception to provide emergency financial help to union families struggling due to layoffs, strikes and the slow recovery from the economic collapse in 2008.
Between 1996 (when the Fight Fund was launched) and Dec. 31, 2014, a total of $990,090 has been raised, helping thousands of families. Since 2009, when families-helped tracking began, 2,267 families have received assistance.
‘HATS OFF’ TO ALL
“This is an amazing accomplishment, and we take our hat off to the thousands of union members, retirees, organizations and companies and even a number of unemployed union members for making this possible,” said Pat White, St. Louis Labor Council president.
“Your generosity is amazing especially in light of the fact that everyone has been hurting since 2008 in one way or another. The members of labor unions are living proof of the campaign’s motto: ‘We Do Share Because We All Care’” White added.
One hundred percent of the money raised goes into the Fight Fund. The Labor Council absorbs all administrative costs.
2014 HONOR ROLL ‘THANK YOU’
The $5 for the Fight Honor Roll, published in the Feb. 5, 2015 print edition of the Labor Tribune, lists all 2014 donors. A heartfelt “THANK YOU” to every one. Beginning next month the Labor Tribune will launch the 2015 Honor Roll listing.
As part of the 2014 payouts, the United Way provided $20,027 from special funds and donations of pre-paid food and gas gift cards from individuals and unions reached $4,735. The Schnucks eScrip campaign raised $5,774 since it began in 2013.
Sadly, the number of union families helped last year rose 14 percent above 2013 and the number of unions they came from rose 18 percent, from 66 different unions to 78.
ORIGIN OF THE FUND
The Fight Fund originated in 1996 as a means of assisting support for Machinists District 837 members in their contract fight with (then) McDonnell Douglas. The fund was originally called “Five for the Family.” Union members and locals raised $160,257 to help Machinists families weather the 99-day strike.
In 1997, to support the St. Louis area Teamsters in their strike against United Parcel Service (UPS), union members raised $102,500. It was during this campaign that the name changed to “$5 for the Fight.”
With the few dollars left over from actual payouts, and seeing the success of the efforts to help union families in times of crisis, then Labor Council President Bob Kelley urged continuation of fund raising efforts for future crises.
As a result of that foresight, many thousands of union families have been helped since then in their times of need.
Special efforts in ’14 to help union families
Two events already this year where you can help
In addition to the direct contributions from Labor Tribune readers, local unions and others into the $5 for the Fight Fund, a number of individual fundraisers took place last year:
- Steamfitters 439 – Illinois Steamfitters Local 439 members for the past four months have donated their 50/50 drawing proceeds totaling $1,011 to the Fight effort. Members donating their winnings include Mike Trupiano, John Schwartzkoph, Paul Hahns and Chris Gee.
- Celebration – Union representatives, their unions and guests attending the annual Union Representatives Christmas luncheon donated $17,345 to the Fund.
Schnucks – Schnucks Markets, through its community support eScrip campaign, contributed $5,774.68 to the Fight Fund by donating a percentage on purchases from participating union members.
- Simmons Law – The Simmons Law Firm – for the third year in a row – offered a $25,000 matching grant challenge that was met. The firm has donated $75,000 in matching challenge grant effort since 2012.
UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENTS
If you plan to attend a Blues game or go to the Moolah Shrine Circus, you can make a $5 for the Fight donation simply by attending:
- Blues – For every ticket sold for the Feb. 24 (Canadians), March 12 ( Flyers) and April 2 (Flames) games, the Blues will donate $5 per to the Fund. Order online at www.stlouisblues.com/union and use the promo code 1415UNION, or call Tim Thurber at 314-613-1885. Tickets must be purchased through one of these two processes for the Fight Fund to get the donation.
- Circus – The Moolah Shrine Circus, in coordination with IBEW Local 1439, will donate $5 for each $15 general admission ticket sold for any of seven performances March, 19 (7 p.m.), March 20 (10:30 a.m. & 7:30 p.m.), March 21 (10 a.m., 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.) and March 22 (1 p.m. & 6 p.m.). Sales must go through Local 1439 Business Representative Mark Staffne for the Fund to receive the donation. Send checks payable to Moolah Shrine to Brother Mark Staffne, IBEW 1439, 2121 59th St., St. Louis, MO 63110 or call him at 314-520-1128. For each adult ticket bought, the Shrine will donate a free child’s ticket for all children under 12.
The new St. Louis Shriner’s Hospital is being built 100 percent union labor.
A gracious “thank you” to the organizers and participants for each of these special efforts to help union families in need.
Need help? Here’s how to get it
For union families in crisis, and in need of immediate, the $5 for the Fight Fund is available. Here’s how to get help:
- Call – Contact the Labor Participation Department at United Way and leaves a message on the Labor Assistance Line @ 314-539-4189.
- Confirmation – As part of the initial conversation between the United Way Labor Liaison and the union member, the individual may be asked to call their union and ask their union representative to call Labor Liaisons to confirm that they are a union member in good standing. In some cases, certain unions prefer that the Labor Liaison call them to confirm union membership.
- Assessment – Once union membership is confirmed and individual needs have been assessed, the Labor Liaison will research available resources and assistance is needed from the $5 For the Fight Fund.
- Payment – If assistance is appropriate, the Labor Liaison will request a payment from the Fight Fund to the union member’s mortgage company, landlord utility, medical service provider, etc. to prevent further action.
Here’s how you can help union families in crisis
If you can help, please right write a check for whatever you can afford to “$5 for the Fight.” Your contribution will help someone in desperate need of help.
3 WAYS TO GIVE
- Mail: Check/money order to “$5 for the Fight” mailed to: $5 for the Fight, c/o St. Louis Labor Council, 3301 Hollenberg Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044. Please include your union affiliation.
Online – www.labortribun.com. Click “$5 for the Fight Donations” to be taken to a secure payment site.
Reoccurring credit card donation: go to www.labortribune.com, click “$5 for the Fight Donations” to go to the secure donations page, check the “Automatic monthly deduction” and the amount. Your designated donation will automatically be deducted from your credit card each month
LEVELS OF GIVING
There are now nine categories of giving:
- Apprentice – $1 to $12/ George Washington Honor Roll
- Journeyman – $13-50/Andrew Jackson Honor Roll
- Steward – $51-$99/ Ulysses S. Grant Honor Roll
- Chief Steward – $100 +/Ben Franklin Honor Roll
- Job Foreman – $500+ / William McKinley Honor Roll
- General Foreman – $1,000 +/ Grover Cleveland Honor Roll
- Major Donors – $2,500 +
- In Memoriam – to honor a loved one or friend or fellow union member.
If your gift moves you from one category to another, your will automatically move into the appropriate honor roll.
Remember, 100 percent of your donation goes into the “Fight Fund.” All efforts to promote and service the Fund are donated by the Labor Council, the United Way and the Labor Tribune.
From a lot of grateful people, “thank you” for agreeing that “We share because we care for one another.”
Schnucks eScrip program provides ‘free money’ to help the Fight Fund
The Schnucks eScrip program provides “free money” to help out-of-work union families.
“We encourage everyone to consider picking up a free eScrip card at their local Schnucks,” said Pat White, president, Greater St. Louis Labor Council.
It doesn’t cost you a penny to participate.
Schnucks, as part of its outstanding community outreach, will donate a percentage of your purchase to the Fight Fund at no extra charge to you. It’s that easy. The amount of their money donated by Schnucks goes up as your total purchases for the month climb: 1 percent for the first $300, two percent from $301 - $600 and three percent from $601 - $999.
HOW TO eScrip?
- Have a card? – If you already have a Schnucks eScrip Card, you can add the Fight Fund to your existing card by simply calling 1-800-931-6258 and adding “St. Louis Labor Council-5 for the Fight” to it. You can designate up the three organizations to get the funding as long as the group is registered with Schnucks to participate.
- Need a card? – If you don’t have a card it’s easy to get one. Pick one up at the Customer Service Center. You can have the cashier swipe the card that day when you pay for your groceries.
However, once you get home you must register the card to get credit for what you just purchased and for future purchases. There are two ways to register:
- Phone – call 1-800-931-6258. Say that you want your purchases credited toward “St. Louis Labor Council-5 for the Fight” - Group #500030665 OR,
- Online – at www.escrip.com/schnucks.jsp. Click “Register your card” and follow the prompts and fill in the required information. Make sure you indicate that you want your purchases credited toward “St. Louis Labor Council-5 for the Fight” where it asks you “Enter a Group Name” and then also check the box when the council’s name comes up.
If you register within seven days of any purchase, that amount is retroactively credited to the $5 for the Fight Fund.
Each card also comes with a smaller card that attaches to your key chain so it’s handy each time you buy groceries.