Labor and United Way: Standing together for more than 75 years

United Way employees march in the Detroit Labor Day Parade.For more than 75 years, United Way and labor have made a difference together in Southeastern Michigan. From feeding children to hosting school supply drives, labor keeps the community going strong. Labor Day is a perfect time to celebrate that partnership.

“The support labor shows for United Way is incredible,” said Tiffany Bush, director of labor participation at United Way. “Our partnership is a meaningful one, focusing on philanthropy, advocacy and volunteerism. Together, we’re improving the quality of life for families throughout Southeastern Michigan.”

To thank labor for its partnership throughout the years, United Way once again plans to march in the annual Labor Day parade in downtown Detroit. Last year, about 70 United Way employees donned United Way (heart) Labor T-shirts and also carried a banner with the same slogan on Labor Day.

Labor Day: A time to celebrate labor

“I’m excited about the relationship between United Way and labor, and I just want to continue strengthening it and moving it forward,” said Rick Blocker, president, Metro Detroit AFL-CIO. “I’m just a firm believer that you’ve got to give back. I think it’s society’s responsibility to try to help people.”

Because of labor support, United Way is able to empower every family to succeed. Together, we’re giving kids the right start in life, making sure they have healthy meals and also preparing them for college or a career right out of high school.

Labor workers support United Way.

United Way’s child development work is of particular interest to Blocker. He lauds the leadership of United Way for Southeastern Michigan President and CEO Dr. Herman Gray.

“What Dr. Gray is doing with childhood development is really important. People don’t have a real understanding of how important ages 1 to 5 are for a child. If their brain is not properly stimulated when they are young, think of how far behind they may be once they get to kindergarten,” he said.

Impactful support

Labor’s support helps fund United Way’s efforts to prepare kids for kindergarten. Because of that funding, we can provide parents and caregivers with the tools and supportive networks they need to help their children learn. For example, Early Learning Communities allow parents to participate in workshops and borrow books from lending libraries.

The organization also connects people who are struggling with needed resources through its 2-1-1 referral service, and it helps connect families to free summer meal sites so that children have access to healthy lunches all summer long through the Meet Up and Eat Up program.

United Way hosts neighborhood Meet Up and Eat Up block parties each summer to spread the word about the program. Labor has offered up volunteers year after year to help staff the events.

Labor union volunteers at United Way Meet Up and Eat Up Block Party

“Sometimes, the only good food a kid gets is at school,” Blocker said. “It sounds kind of harsh, but it’s the reality for far too many children.”

Blocker credits Gray with pushing United Way forward.

“Dr. Gray has really put a lot of energy into the organization. He’s really motivated to take it to a different level,” Blocker said. “They’re an organization that makes a difference.”