Organized Labor
United Way Labor Departments

Since 1946, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and United Way of America have enjoyed a cooperative working relationship through which they and state and local United Ways have provided services to members of organized labor, their families and their communities. United Way and organized labor work together to:
  • Train union members to assist co-workers and their families with information about available local services and to refer them to the appropriate organizations.
  • Recruit, train and place diverse members of organized labor on the decision-making bodies of health and human-care service organizations. This is done at the national, state and local levels.
  • Recognize labor leaders who have rendered outstanding United Way volunteer service by annually awarding the Joseph A. Beirne Community Services Award - established in memory of that remarkable labor leader.
    The 2002 Beirne Award recipient is Sandra Jean Irons, President, Gary
    Teachers Union, Local 4, Gary, Indiana.
  • Solicit contributions from workers, which account for a sizable percentage of the two-thirds of the funds that United Ways raise through payroll deduction each year. Through the Labor Letters of Endorsement Program, the president of the AFL-CIO asks presidents of its affiliated unions and state federations to send letters endorsing United Way campaigns to their memberships. This program also encourages individual union members to volunteer their time and contribute their resources to United Way campaigns. It also encourages local unions and central labor councils to endorse and support United Way campaigns.
  • Provide a staff of more than 200 full-time state and local AFL-CIO Community Services Liaisons who serve as links between their state federations and central labor councils and United Ways in 175 communities across the United States. In addition, 21 local labor agencies and five state labor agencies receive direct United Way support.
  • Support the National Association of Letter Carriers' (NALC) National Food Drive held annually on the second Saturday in May. The drive stocks local community food banks, pantries and shelters with non-perishables Letter Carriers collect from customers along their mail routes. The drive, which has become the world's largest one-day food drive, was started by NALC in 1991 in cooperation with the U.S. Postal Service and the AFL-CIO. United Way became a full partner in 1994.
The History of a Lasting Partnership:
Organized Labor and United Way

Over half a century ago, on August 17, 1942, an agreement on cooperation was signed by the , the United Nations Relief Committee of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Community Chests and Councils, Inc. (now ). This agreement encouraged labor representation on Community Chests boards and councils, and for recognition of union members' contributions. The agreement sought cooperation between employee solicitation organized by employers and union representatives who jointly stressed voluntary contributions without coercion.

This agreement came in response to the growing number of fund drives organized to support Community Chests, labor war relief, American Red Cross, the USO, war bond campaigns, plus a number of trade, religious and advocacy groups who wanted to help. To coordinate effective support, organized labor and the Community Chests and Councils, Inc. agreed to join in collaborative fund raising and community development. As a result, labor liaison positions were established on the staffs of local community chests.

In 1946, the Department of Labor Participation was established at United Way of America. The aim was to join United Way, labor and health and welfare agencies in a cooperative, community effort to bring services and people together. To accomplish this, what are currently known as AFL-CIO Community Services liaisons are employed by United Way organizations throughout the country. These representatives are selected by the local AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and serve at the pleasure of United Way and the Council.

Organized labor is a full partner in United Way, as witnessed by the more than 200 AFL-CIO Community Services liaisons currently serving on the staff of state and local United Ways throughout the country. Representatives of unions volunteer in all phases of United Way activities, serve on year-round committees, participate in annual United Way campaigns as part of the campaign leadership structure, and communicate to union members the importance of the campaign and the agencies involved. Union members are involved as volunteers in their communities by working with the many health and human care agencies providing services to the community.

On November 22, 1971 and again on April 4, 1979, the Cooperative Memorandum of Understanding between the United Way of America and the AFL-CIO was reaffirmed.
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