By ED FINKELSTEIN
Despite the mild winter months, the need for help for union families out-of-work or underemployed continues unabated as the $5 for the Fight Fund struggles to keep up.
As of Feb. 24, several dozen families were seeking help with only $22,500 left in the Fight Fund, about two months average outflow.
The incredible impact of your donations to the Fight Fund is clear in the 2016 report recently presented to the St. Louis Labor Council’s executive board by the United Way labor liaison staff: 589 union families from 93 different unions received help last year. This is up from the 548 families helped in 2015.
A total of $122,615 from the generous donations of readers and others went directly to these union families. Of that, $81,442 came from the Fight Fund, $38,292 from various United Way sources, $2,880 from donated grocery cards and $3,868 from the Schnucks eScript card program, reported United Way Labor Engagement Vice President Roz Sherman-Voellinger. Last year there was over $6,500 from eScript donations, but the Teamsters ongoing boycott has obviously had an impact on Schnucks sales and its donations to the Fund.
YOUR ‘HEART IS AMAZING’
Areas where the $5 for the Fight Fund helped included rent and mortgage assistance, auto repairs, emergency housing, food, medical needs and utility help.
“The heart of our members is amazing,” said Labor Council President Pat White. “Their generosity in light of everything we’re facing is testimony to the ‘United we Stand’ concept of what our Labor Movement is all about.
“Thank you to all who have donated, and continue to open their wallets and their hearts to our families in need.”
UNION MEMBERS HELPED
A record 589 members from 93 different unions were helped in 2016. They came from the following unions:
ACTWU, AFGE 104, Carpenters 32, 662, 664, 92, and 97, Cement Masons 527 and 90, CWA 14620 (mailers), 6300 and 6355, Fed of Special Police & Sec. Officers 250, GCI/Teamsters 6-505M, GMP 182-B, Machinists 1345, 313, 41, 660, 688, 777, 387, Districts 837 and 9, IATSE 6, IBEW 1, 1455 and 2, IFT 3530, Ironworkers 396, Laborers 110, 218, 338, 338 (retired), 397, 42, 660 and 773, Letter Carriers 343, Meat Cutters 88, NARA 104, NEA-HASP, NEA-MO, NTEU 14, Postal Mail Handlers 314, Operating Engineers 513, Painter District Councils 2 and 58, Plumbers & Fitters 562, Roofers 2, SEIU 1, SEIU HC, SMART 36, STL Police Officers Ass’n. 6, Teamsters 50, 525, 610, 618, 682 and 688, UAW 110, 1268, 2250, UFCW 655 and 881, UNITE HERE 74, Steelworkers 1063, 1899, 3643, 39, 50 and 9014, and Utilities Workers 6-11 and 640.
NEED CRISIS HELP?
Having a crisis that needs immediate help? The $5 for the Fight assistance fund is available to union families with a genuine need. Here’s how to get help:
- Call – Union member in need of emergency assistance contacts the Labor Participation Department at United Way and leaves a message on the Labor Assistance Line at 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 needs have been assessed, the labor liaison will research available resources and determine if the union member has a true emergency and is eligible to receive assistance from the $5 For the Fight Fund.
- Payment – If assistance is appropriate, the labor liaison will request a payment from the St. Louis Labor Council’s $5 For the Fight Fund. Checks are not written to individuals in need, rather they are paid directly to the union member’s mortgage company, landlord or utility companies to prevent further action.
HERE'S HOW YOU CAN HELP A UNION FAMILY IN CRISIS
If you can help, please right now write a check for whatever you can afford to “$5 for the Fight” knowing that your contribution will help someone in desperate need of help. There are three ways to give:
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: go to labortribune.com and click “$5 for the Fight Donations.” That takes you to a secure payment site.
- Reoccurring credit card donation: go to labortribune.com, click “$5 for the Fight Donations” to go to a secure donations page, check the “Automatic monthly deduction” and amount. Each month your designated donation will automatically be deducted from your credit card.
LEVELS OF GIVING
Remember, there are now nine categories of giving:
- Apprentice – $1-$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.”
Tragic stories abound for Fight Fund help
The need for help from the $5 for the Fight Fund is real. The stories are heartbreaking.
- A mother of four had her hours shortened at her factory. She began to fall behind in her bills. Finally, with the threatened shut off of her utilities, she turned to $5 for the Fight for help.
- The family breadwinner with three children got seriously ill with an extended illness and couldn’t work. After exhausting what little savings they had, they turned to the Fight Fund to help feed their children and deal with an impending utility crisis. The United Way was also able to refer them to other United Way services.
- A child became seriously ill. The working mom used up her sick leave but needed more time to take her child for care. With no extended medical leave, the bills began to pile up. The Fund helped with rent to avoid eviction and the United Way was able to refer to other support services.
- A mother with two small children lost her full-time job and began working part time. They lost their home and slept on the couches of friends or wherever they could. Some situations were far less than desirable. Her situation became desperate. The Fight Fund got them temporary housing until the United Way could get them into a shelter. They now have a more permanent housing prospect. The mom is “eternally grateful to all those who helped.”
And the stories continue. They are real. Your help is making life bearable for so many union members and families.
Each case is individually reviewed and the need confirmed.