United Way

Live United: How Labor & United Way Transform Our Community

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by Colleen Sullivan

Editor’s note: On upcoming this Labor Day weekend, United Way celebrates and thanks our friends in Labor who generously give their time and resources to support our work. We asked our Labor Liaison, Colleen Sullivan, to share her perspective.

Live United! We wear the shirts, slurp coffee from mugs emblazoned with it, and doodle on meeting agendas with pens reminding us of this important United Way slogan. The phrase is central to all we do but how much have you thought about what that means?

Living United isn’t a clever branding message to eat, sleep, breath United Way but it is a call to each of us to carry out our mission of “Connecting community for the common good.” You likely have examples in your own life of how living united has had a positive impact. Your neighbors may be helping mow an elderly resident’s lawn, your friends and family may have come together to help you move, or you joined thousands of strangers in signing a petition to elicit change. The same principles are at work when all of us join together to magnify our collective impact.

Here are a few other slogans you may recognize:

An injury to one is an injury to all

Stronger Together

United we stand, divided we fall

Solidarity Forever

It’s the U and I in Union that makes us strong

If you haven’t guessed by now those phrases are largely attributed to Labor. Unions have a long history of volunteerism and collective impact work. It is this shared work, in fact, that brought United Way and the AFL-CIO together back in 1942.

During World War II, the Community Chests and Councils, Inc. (now United Way Worldwide), the United Nations Relief Committee of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the National Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) Committee for American and Allied War Relief all found themselves working to raise money for war relief efforts. Partnering made sense for the common good, and thus a partnership was born. Today, United Way and the AFL-CIO have over 156 Community Services liaisons coordinating the giving campaigns and volunteer efforts of our Union brothers and sisters.

This Labor Day when you gather around the grill, take a moment to celebrate our many partners in Labor who also work to put more families on a path to financial stability through their support of United Way. I hope you’ll be part of this important effort, too, whether as a donor or a volunteer, and help build a stronger community.

Colleen Sullivan is the Labor Liaison for United Way of Jackson County.