In The News
United Way rallies labor as key to its success
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
It’s really your campaign. The speakers reminded unions of that September 17 during the Labor Kick-off Rally for the United Way. And they had both facts and anecdotes to prove it.
Betsy Brenner, president and publisher of Journal Sentinel and this year a co-chair of the community campaign, reminded the crowded room that, while high rollers were always welcome, more than half the donations were under $100. So again and again over a century, it has been the citizens with the least who give the most. In 2009, putting its goal where its belief in the community is and where it knows the need is, United Way is seeking $45 million, some $700,000 more than last year.
Brenner emphasized that belief with a story about Cargill Meats, where the workers this year met an amazing 99% of their goal even though the campaign came a week after the company had frozen wages because of the economic turndown.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of Bucyrus International and a longtime United Way leader serving this year as board chair, recounted how amazed the leaders of the Patrick Cudahy plant were in the aftermath of that devastating fire. They almost didn’t believe that United Way was not just a place with its hand out, but “a place that gives as well as receives.” One example was that the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and United Way agencies such as the AFL-CIO Community Services created a food pantry that fed 9,000 Cudahy family members, half that number children.
“The people in this community are extraordinarily generous,” Sullivan said, but he offered the union leaders the most important component in getting donations. “Just remember, the key to success is that you have to ask.”
Other speakers with examples and passion included Stephanie Bloomingdale, director of public policy of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (AFT) and Labor Participation Co-Chairs Anthony Rainey, president of (Master Lock) UAW Local 469, and Scott Redman, business representative for Plumbers Local 75.
But the crowd saved its highest emotion for the joy and sadness reflected in a brief speech by the winner of the Labor/United Way community service award.
Scott Van Derven has served in various offices over the years for Pioneer Branch 2, National Association of Letter Carriers, and also as top safety representative and coordinator of the combined federal campaign.
But he is probably best known in the community over six years as organizer, newsletter columnist, media spokesman and tireless go-to guy for the annual “Stamp Out Hunger” NALC food drive. Nationally this year the NALC collected 70 million pound of food and in Milwaukee the door-by-door collection by letter carriers in the spring carries the Hunger Task Force deep into the summer.
Van Derven was ecstatic in thanking his union and his wife, Mary, for putting up with his enthusiasm for charitable work and promoting him to win the Werner J. Schaefer Award (a labor member’s highest honor; it is named after a legendary labor and United Way leader).
But he suggested quietly that maybe it took actually going out into the neighborhoods every day, as he and his fellow letter carriers do, to understand the depth of the pain and the need.
“We’ve seen these people daily through hurt and tragedy,” he said. “We’ve delivered, I’m sad to say, more foreclosures this year than in the 26 years I’ve been on the job. Maybe that’s why we feel we have to help.”
The sponsors also thanked WRTP/Big Step for donating its training facility, the Center of Excellence, 3841 W. Wisconsin Ave., for this festive launch, specially catered and decorated. Guests also received the MALC anniversary logo shopping bags and souvenir booklet. The event was organized and promoted by AFL-CIO field mobilizers Annie Wacker (also Vice-President of the MALC), Jay Reinke and Mike Balistriere.