|ONLINE VERSION||MAY 2000|
|Union Community Fund|
After nearly three years in development, the Union Community Fund was endorsed by the AFL-CIO convention last October. The Union Community Fund is a sister organization to the AFL-CIO, much like the Solidarity Center, the Working for America institute or the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and is a community-based and worker-owned charity that promotes economic equality and social justice, community-by-community.
More and more, family income controls access to basic community resources such as child care, education, housing, health care and elder care. As the income gap in our communities widens, working families run the risk of losing an increasing number of opportunities and sharing less and less in their communities' prosperity.
This same economic divide has driven many charities to respond increasingly to the business communities, who are perceived as these charities' greatest benefactors and who now overwhelmingly control many boards of directors.
The Union Community Fund upholds the principle that unions are the primary way to achieve economic justice for working families. The Union Community Fund will serve as a complementary way to address economic justice beyond the workplace and into our communities.
Local Union Community Fund boards will work to accomplish four goals:
1) To fund programs for human need, particularly where a community's economic barriers are obstacles and make these services out of reach. This may include funding for programs for nutrition, housing or assistance in times of crisis.
2) To fund programs that focus on worker development, so that working families can achieve dignified and decent lives. This includes areas such as job training, education and vocational programs.
3) To fund programs that advocate change in our communities, which, in turn, will create opportunities for everyone to share in a community's prosperity.
4) To strengthen the voice of working families in the non-profit community by making funding decisions with and for working families.
The Fund's mission, therefore, is to support programs that close the growing economic gap in communities in a way that enables the working family, as its major benefactor, to direct the giving.
The development of the Union Community Fund is no way reflects a desire on the part of the AFL-CIO to end its long-standing partnership with United Way or to jeopardize other working relationships in communities. In fact, it is the stated goal of the AFL-CIO that the relationship with other groups be enhanced and grown. In places where there is a strong relationship with the United Way, the AFL-CIO and the Union Community Fund will work to increase overall giving and to expand the overall donor base.
For example, just after its endorsement in October, many international and national unions, central labor councils, state federations, local unions and union members pitched in to raise just over $90,000 for the victims of Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina. The earliest contributions went to the immediate needs being served by the American Red Cross.
Just before the holidays, several later contributions were forwarded to organizations helping those still remaining homeless from the floods. The Fund helped move a medical trailer into the massive camp at Rocky Mount. It helped the New Life Women's Leadership project to serve the needs of women and children whose lives are still devastated by the hurricane, and it funded the general needs of several homeless families. In each case, James Andrews, president of the AFL-CIO North Carolina State Federation, was able to offer support through labor's allies in the community in the name of the labor movement.
"While the fundamental work of the Union Community Fund will be focused on individual labor communities, we will continue to show the giving spirit of union members when urgent needs arise," said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney.