United Way Community Campaign underway


The United Way’s annual fundraising campaign is underway and Sonja Gholston-Byrd, vice president of Labor Engagement, is encouraging area unions and members to donate to continue helping our own.

With the recently ended United Auto Workers strike and layoffs at U.S. Steel’s Granite City steelworks, the need for United Way assistance has been great this year and is expected to continue, even as some members go back to work.

“When people get back on their jobs they still have bills coming in and they still have financial needs,” Gholston-Byrd said. “We need to reach our goals so we’ll be readily available.”

United Way of Greater St. Louis runs its annual community campaign to raise support for its safety net partners and other programs and initiatives it supports across the region.

More than one million people in our area are helped each year by United Way supported nonprofits — that’s one in three people helped in Greater St. Louis in 16 counties throughout Illinois and Missouri.

United Way conducted a review of recent assistance provided and reports electricity, gas and rent assistance are the three basic needs and main challenges members face. The generous financial support of unions, as well as their staff and members, allowed these problems and circumstances to be overcome.

Here are a few examples where the generosity of others has helped union members across the region:

  • A notification of water and electricity disconnection was sent to a union member. The member was unable to pay expenses because of the UAW strike. United Way funding kept both utilities from being disconnected.
  • A prolonged illness prevented a union sister who worked for the transit system from paying her energy bill. Her power was disconnected. With help from United Way donated funds, her electrical service was restored.
  • A single mother of one child was behind on her rent. Her strike pay did not allow her to fully pay her rent. A notice of “arrears due immediately” was sent by her landlord. Thanks to United Way, eviction proceedings were avoided.
  • A union member who was on strike and is the sole provider for her child received a disconnect notice for their electrical service. To keep her power on, she called the United Way helpline.
  • A union member who was laid-off received a notice of disconnection for their gas account. The member’s layoff prevented them from making their bill payments on time. The turnoff was avoided because of funding from the United Way.

The United Way Labor Department Direct Assist Program continues to help families with utilities and housing assistance along with providing community referrals thanks to the AFL-CIO and United Way partnership.

Twenty-six union leaders provide direction to United Way by serving on the board of directors and regional auxiliary boards.

United Way partners with the Building Union Diversity (BUD) program to prepare, recruit and retain more women and minorities for union construction apprenticeship programs.

United Way supports community collaboration efforts to address the opioid epidemic, ranging from worksite education to pregnant moms needing treatment assistance.

Five union members work full-time as United Way Labor liaisons to help union families and strengthen Labor and community ties.

Contacting your local United Way Labor liaison is a free, simple, and confidential way to connect union members who qualify for assistance during a time of economic hardship.

Any union member needing assistance with utility payments, food counseling and other non-work related problems can call the United Way Labor Help Line at 314-539-4189.

Your support of United Way has an incredible impact for our communities, friends, family and neighbors. Help is just a phone call away for union members who seek guidance and referral to Labor and community resources. But in order to provide that help, the United Way needs your help.

To donate, scan the QR code accompanying in this story or visit helpingpeople.org/donate-to-united-way-labor-division.

For more information about the United Way Labor Engagement Department, contact Gholston-Byrd at sonjagbyrd@stl.unitedway.org or Director of Labor Engagement Rose McCowan at rose.mccowan@stl.unitedway.org.

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