United Way and the labor movement go way back, with a partnership that continues to build stronger communities across America. Whether it's stepping up to tackle the water crisis in Flint, helping veterans find jobs in Los Angeles, or mentoring young people in Atlanta, union members are adding momentum to United Way's community impact work.
We first came together right after World War II, as an innovative way to rebuild our nation. We looked different back then, but our shared passion for building a better world was evident from the start. United Way (then Community Chests and Councils) and labor’s umbrella organizations (the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations) worked together to create a mechanism for payroll deduction. That resulted in labor representation on United Way boards, and evolved into collaborative fundraising and community development. Since then, unions have been strong partners in the workplace campaign, encouraging union members to give and volunteer.
Union members are part of the largest organizational network in the U.S., comprising more than 12.5 million people who work collectively to invest in their communities, volunteer and advocate.
Labor unions contribute far more to United Way’s mission than dollars. For example, the National Association of Letter Carriers' annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is the the nation’s largest all-volunteer one-day food drive. In 2019, letter carriers collected more than 76.1 million pounds of food, the 15th straight year that collections exceeded 70 million pounds. Since the drive began in 1993, nearly 1.4 billion pounds of food have been collected.
Union members represent skilled workers from across all industries, including both public and private sectors. They bring a wide variety of expertise and have the power to bring together community, government and businesses to create and promote access to good jobs.
Union leaders serve on local United Way boards around the country, and on United Way Worldwide and U.S. boards.
In 2016, United Way Worldwide and the AFL-CIO reshaped their relationships through a new national agreement with a focus on strategic community impact.