Laboring For A Better Allen County

Mike Bynum, director of Labor and Community Services for United Way of Allen County, discusses the agency’s long-standing relationship with Organized Labor.
Apr 1, 2016
Tracie Ortman
Tracie Ortman
Laboring For A Better Allen County

According to the Census Bureau in 2015, more than 11 percent of Indiana’s workforce is comprised of union members. Several organizations in our area take advantage of the expertise provided through this group of skilled and passionate individuals. One of those organizations is United Way of Allen County, which has a shared staff member who reports to both United Way and the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council. This liaison works to connect Organized Labor members to efforts that help improve the lives of our Allen County residents through United Way’s work supporting basic needs, education, financial stability and healthy lives. 

How long have United Way and Organized Labor worked together?

Bynum: Organized Labor and United Way of Allen County have worked together since 1958. We are quickly approaching 60 years of partnership for the benefit of our Allen County community. That partnership has been in place for more than half of United Way’s tenure in Allen County. As in any relationship, there are always challenges, but it is a rock solid partnership built on history and trust. 

Why is that partnership important?

Bynum: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) puts a special emphasis on union members being good citizens who strive to make their community a good place to live, work, raise children and retire. United Way has a similar vision for the community. We want to see all individuals and families discover and achieve their potential. In the end, these two groups join together to accomplish more than they could on their own. 

How does Organized Labor partner with United Way?

Bynum: Union representatives serve on the United Way board of directors, investment teams and other United Way committees. We also partner on the eight-week Community Education program for individuals who are experiencing a layoff or job change. United Way and Organized Labor also assist with the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, Earned Income Tax Credit program, community health fair, Day of Caring and other activities throughout the year. 

What kind of support do Organized Labor members provide to United Way?

Bynum: Union members actively support United Way workplace campaigns. Thirty percent of employee donations to United Way of Allen County come from Organized Labor workplaces. Being strong community members means they understand that we have to work together to find solutions to the most critical issues that our community faces. Part of that solution involves funds to accomplish the work, but the other part is being active volunteers. Union members have been involved in every one of our annual Days of Caring and they provide thousands of volunteer hours to our community each year. They are very talented individuals and we enjoy matching them up with efforts that use their unique skill sets. Most people can’t build a ramp for a resident who needs a wheelchair or fix a leaky roof for an elderly couple, but our tradespeople can.

What are you looking forward to as the new director of Labor and Community Services for United Way of Allen County?

Bynum: I am excited to get to know the people. When it comes down to it, we are all people who want the same thing—a better community to live and work in. I have heard great things about the group I get to work with and being a part of United Steelworkers Local 903, I already know a lot of the people who work with United Way. I get to see the impact they have from this side of things. The first Saturday in May is the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive. The donations from it go to Associated Churches Neighborhood Food Network, and last year our area donated more than 600,000 pounds of food. That is enough food to feed around 400 people for a year. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we all work together towards the same goal. 

United Way of Allen County

Address: 334 E. Berry Street Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802

Phone: (260) 422-4776

Website: unitedwayallencounty.org

Products & Services: United Way of Allen County unites our community’s time, talent and treasure to cultivate and advance community solutions that address the most critical issues around basic needs, education, financial stability and healthy lives.

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