For more than 75 years, United Way has partnered with the American Federation of Labor and National Congress of Industrial Organizations to help unionized employees in times of emergency.

The first formal agreement encouraged labor representation on United Way — formerly Community Chest — boards and councils. United Way and the AFL-CIO agreed to collaborative fundraising and community development, and so United Way formed “labor liaison” positions to serve on local staff.

Lydia Glaize is the labor liaison for United Way of Greater Atlanta. Glaize is a former elected official, educator and IRS auditor, so she says the role was a good fit for her because of her broad work experience she had serving her community.

Glaize is the only Labor Liaison in the Greater Atlanta office and her service area includes the 13 counties in the Greater Atlanta region with 62-64 local unions represented.

“For more than 75 years, our United Way Worldwide and the National AFL-CIO presidents have agreed to partner together to support working families and those in the labor community that experience emergencies,” Glaize says. “In the regional areas, specifically metro areas, the larger United Ways have a labor liaison. I’m deeply involved with local labor unions through community engagement initiatives, providing collaborative programming and volunteer opportunities while also managing the Labor Emergency Relief Fund to support union families in their time of critical need.”

Several “large labor companies” give to United Way of Greater Atlanta through their internal campaigns, Glaize says, including UPS, Georgia Power, MARTA, AT&T and Kroger to name a few.

These companies’ union employees and non-union members give to United Way of Greater Atlanta, but union members also give again to the United Way through their respective local unions.

“$25,000 is given every year into a Labor Emergency Relief Fund,” Glaize says. “This is for people who are experiencing emergency-related critical needs — someone may run out of sick leave, get behind in their bills, and we also help them in cases of fire, flood and other emergencies.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta helps improve the well-being of children in the 13-county Greater Atlanta region by making sure the needs of the family and community are met as well, Glaize says.

United Way of Greater Atlanta recognized two years ago after its strategic planning meeting that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. Statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she is handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way has calculated and published the child well-being score for zip codes across its’ 13-county footprint.

On May 9, United Way’s officials announced the score had improved in two years from 58.9 to 61.8. That equates to improved lives of more than 82,000 children living in low or very low child well-being zip codes.

United Way of Greater Atlanta partners with two large outreach events to celebrate its labor community each year, Glaize says.

The first, is faith-based “Labor in the Pulpit Faith Service,” which was the Sunday before Labor Day at Liberty International Church, and then the annual Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council picnic will be Labor Day from 12-4 p.m. at the United Auto Workers Local 882 Union Hall on 3915 Gilbert Road in Atlanta. The all-ages event has a DJ and dancing with games and activities for children and adults.

“This is an all-day opportunity for Labor Unions to celebrate the major impact they have in our communities and this nation,” Glaize says.

A major collaborative workforce development Pilot Program was launched in 2018, between United Way of Greater Atlanta, Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council and the Building Trades Association.

The “Bridge Program” is a pre-apprenticeship pilot workforce development program in conjunction with Fulton County Schools Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Department and Banneker High School.

The Pathway to Profession program assisted seniors in learning and experiencing the building trades. These nine students completed 20-hours of building trades courses and 30 hours of soft skills and job apprenticeship application training.

Six students were offered jobs in the building trades, and they applied to three to five-year apprenticeship programs in electrical, IT technician, plumbing and pipefitters, Glaize says.

“Apprenticeship programs [are] what Labor uses to train a skilled workforce,” Glaize said. “It is an ‘earn while you learn’ training opportunity to become certified journeymen in your vocation of choice.”

Glaize says students in the apprenticeship program start out around $12 an hour and graduate making double that salary.

There’s a strong labor union community in Greater Atlanta, Glaize says. During the most recent 35-day government shutdown that started in late-December 2018, Glaize said there were more than 3,000 workers locally that were affected by the shutdown.

United Way Worldwide provided around $9,000 in grant funds to help local workers pay bills, but Glaize said the faith community, Southside Ministerial Alliance, gave out more than $7,000, in cash assistance, $4,000 in food assistance and United Way’s Gifts-in-Kind provided approximately $3,000 of in-kind food, personal and home care products, serving 200-plus households.

Glaize has only been at United Way of Greater Atlanta for a year, but she looks to help strengthen the partnership between the Labor Unions, United Way and the community at-large in the coming years.

“We want to make that connection stronger through community engagement, donor engagement and volunteerism,” Glaize says. “We also want to focus on the child well-being movement, which supports greater impact and opportunities for children and families living in poverty.”