By Todd Farally
Last year about this time I wrote an article showing the world what a Local Union can do for its members. I am proud to say that our Local is still providing for the members that are
struggling and there is no plan or reason to stop until we find ourselves in less volatile economic times. I can speak to this not just as a member, but as one who has seen my fair share of struggle these last few years. Without the support of this Union, things could have been much different for me and my family and I’m sure there are quite a few Local 19 members that could say the same.
The article from a year ago talked about the many services that Local 19 provides for its membership that we would never have the access to if we were non-union. But one aspect of that piece that really hit home with a lot of people was the Holiday Fund and how it pulled our Union Family even closer together for the common good of our Brothers and Sisters. Last year the Holiday Fund was kick started with a donation from the retirees and further supported through job site collections by working members and contributions from members who were out of work, but knew there were other members that needed the help. Even family of Local 19 members and retirees gave generously.
That’s how it played out last year and it was a tremendous success. I am elated to say that the Holiday Fund was an even bigger success this year! Again spearheaded by the Local 19 Retirees Club, it was done a little differently this time around. Instead of straight collection of donations, the idea of a raffle type format for the collection process was devised by the Retirees Club who then presented the plan to Local 19 President & Business Manager, Gary Masino in August by the President of the Local 19 Retirees Club, William LaSalvia. With this new collection format anyone could buy a ticket at five dollars each for a chance at winning the $500 dollar prize. The Retirees Club stated they wanted to pay for the printing of the raffle tickets to help alleviate the cost as well.
The tickets for the Holiday Fund went on sale for the first time at Local 19’s Union Picnic at Clementon Park where there was a tent set up for the sale of the tickets by the retirees. Just in that first day the Local raised around $1200 dollars and that got the ball rolling. Also in late September the Retirees Club drafted and sent out a letter along with two tickets per letter encouraging Local 19 retired members to purchase the tickets for the Holiday Fund. This was met with a great response from our retired members raising $4200 dollars, which equates to 420 $10 dollar checks. This was certainly a great start!
In October at the biannual Stewards Meeting, President Masino charged Local 19’s Stewards with the duty of selling even more tickets out on the job sites to any and all. You didn’t have to be a Local 19 member to purchase a ticket and members of our fellow building trades were certainly among those that helped us reach our goal. Stewards were asked to sell a minimum of twenty tickets and many of them more than surpassed that number propelling the fund even further. Even Lady Luck favored the cause. At the 2012 Christmas Party on Dec. 2nd during the Local 19 Scholarship Fund raffle, the $1000 dollar prize was awarded to the Holiday Fund.
The drawing for The Holiday Fund took place at the December 2012 monthly Union Meeting on Dec 3rd and in the place of a name on the winning ticket it said The Members out of Unemployment, so the prize went into the Holiday Fund, rather fitting if you ask me. Now with only two weeks left before the proceeds of the fund was to be distributed, Local 19 Stewards were asked to collect $10 dollars a week per working member during these final two weeks to drive us to our goal and it put the Fund over the top. Before this final push the fund was around $19,000 dollars and after those final two weeks the Membership, along with generous donations from our Union Officials, delivered another $6000 dollars bringing the total to roughly $25,000 dollars!
This enabled Local 19 to send $150 dollars to the 150 members throughout the Local who at one point throughout the month of December had been without Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits. That means that this year the Local 19 Holiday Fund was able to raise enough to send out fifty more dollars than it did last year. As in prior years the Local also sent out $75 dollar grocery gift cards for Thanksgiving and Christmas to members who had been out of UC during the months of November and December.
Same as last year, I was able to sit down with Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 19 President & Business Manager, Gary Masino to speak about what our Union has continued to do for its members who have hit hard times. Through it all Local 19 remains steadfast in covering unemployed members and their families’ health insurance and providing $400 dollars a week for members that have exhausted their UC benefits. In fact at the December Executive Board meeting, the board recommended that the Membership approve a plan to extent the exhaustion benefit to January 2014. In a true sign of solidarity the plan was overwhelmingly approved by the membership at the December monthly Union Meeting.
That is what being a Union Member is all about, coming together for the greater good, whether it is negotiating a contract or helping those of us that are in great need. Amazing things can be accomplished when we working people band together and work toward a common goal.