(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is part of an occasional series looking at how the St. Louis Labor Council’s “$5 for the Fight” fund has helped working families during the economic downturn, and the continuing financial difficulties some working families are facing. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the recipients.)
St. Louis – Darrell’s problems began in 1999 when he was hurt on the job.
A member of Iron Workers Local 396 in St. Louis, he was struck in the face by a falling tool belt, knocking out his teeth, and breaking his nose and eye socket.
When he returned to work, the contractor transferred him to another job site, then laid him off. He had to sue to get his medical bills taken care of.
Since then, he’s had a hard time finding local work.
“When I go out of town, I can find work, but when I come home, I can’t find work. Everyone I apply to, I get put on the backlist, on the wait list. They say, ‘We’ll give you a call’ and I never hear from them again.”
Taking to the road, Darrell has worked in Las Vegas, Omaha, Peoria and Meredosia, Ill., Jefferson City, Mo., and Ohio to support himself, his wife and his four children, ages 21, 18, 15 and 10.
The economic downturn has made it hard to find work the last few years, even on the road.
Still, with help from his wife’s meager income working at a nursing home, they were able to get by until November of last year, when his 18-year-old son was injured in an auto accident.
Because he had the family’s only car, Darrel came home to help take care of his son, to take him to the doctor and to therapy. Unable to travel, or find work close to home, the bills piled up.
His utility bills mounted, and there were problems with his unemployment insurance.
Darrell was able to find work for only two weeks this year – building a CVS Pharmacy in O’Fallon, MO – and soon found himself over his head in debt.
‘$5 FOR THE FIGHT’ STEPPED IN
Darrell contacted the Greater St. Louis Labor Council's “$5 for the Fight” Emergency Relief Fund, which assists union members and their families facing financial hardship.
“$5 for the Fight” was able to help him with utilities and some other bills, but it wasn’t enough.
As is often the case, Darrell had waited until his situation was desperate before calling for help.
The family’s house was foreclosed on in August.
He lost his car – his lifeline to work at home or on the road – in September.
“I’m willing to travel wherever for work, but right now I’m down with transportation and I’m in a bind,” Darrell said. “I’m down to virtually nothing. I’m homeless.”
And his family is scattering to the wind.
Darrell’s sons, 18 and 21, are both in college, one on an academic scholarship, and one on an athletic scholarship.
His oldest son is studying business law at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. His youngest is studying communications at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo.
Meanwhile, his wife and daughters are living with an aunt.
Because there is so little room at the aunt’s house, Darrell has been sleeping on couches at the homes of friends and relatives.
HELP FOR THE HOLIDAYS AND BEYOND
“$5 for the Fight” is helping Darrell get clothing and coats for his daughters for the holidays and helping him to get food vouchers for his family.
“They’ve been great,” Darrell said. “Every time I’ve called, they’ve helped. I didn’t imagine I’d be able to get my daughters anything this year.”
GUIDANCE AS WELL AS ASSISTANCE
The United Way, which administers the “$5 for the Fight” funds, put Darrell in touch with the St. Patrick Center, which is helping him with a job-training program, something that might take him out of his trade, but put him back on the road to financial recovery. They’ve also put him in touch with a caseworker to try to get him into an apartment.
“I’m trying to find some work and get an apartment and get my family back together,” Darrell said. “This is the first holiday that we’ve been apart in 20 years.”
SHARE BECAUSE YOU CARE
Originally established in 1996 by the St. Louis Labor Council, AFL-CIO, to assist union members and their families during a financial crisis while they supported a collective bargaining action, the “$5 for the Fight” fund was redirected in 2009 to support unemployed union families, who, through no fault of their own, had fallen on hard times.
There are three ways to give to the fund.
- Mail – check/money order payable to “$5 for the Fight.” Mail to: “$5 for the Fight”, c/o St. Louis Labor Council, 3301 Hollenberg Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044. Please include union affiliation.
- Online – www.labortribune.com, click “$5 for the Fight Donations.”
- Recurring credit card donation – www.labortribune.com, “$5 for the Fight Donations.” Select “Automatic monthly deduction,” amount and number of months donation. NOTE: Credit card billing statement will read “505 Publications.”
Remember, 100 percent of your donation goes into the “Fight Fund.”