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January 2013

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Fund Helps Struggling Chicago Members

Workers in the Windy City were especially battered by the Great Recession, with Chicago's unemployment spiking higher than 13 percent three years ago.

For Local 134 members still struggling, there's help. With the support and guidance of Business Manager Terry Allen, a volunteer group of officers and rank-and-file members launched the local's Helping Hand Fund in October 2011 to benefit members in need. The mission is simple: anyone wishing to assist fellow members can make a donation to the fund, and anyone facing hardship can apply for monetary help from the fund's committee.

"Belonging to a union is about taking care of each other, especially in these hard economic times," said Local 134 member Mike Evans, who serves as chairman.

More than a year ago, Evans, Business Agent Marty McElligott and a handful of others started collecting cash donations at union meetings to purchase $50 grocery store gift cards to give to members who had been on the bench. While Evans said it was a good start, "that doesn't really do too much for a guy who's been out of work for two years trying to meet his mortgage payments."

So the team got more ambitious. After talking with leaders at Detroit Local 58 — who have had their Benevolent Fund in place since the late '90s — the Chicago members adopted many of their best practices. Raffles and giveaways for donors at union meetings are now standard, a nine-person committee has been established to evaluate requests for assistance and volunteers are soliciting outside groups for donations. A new Web site has also helped ensure added buy-in from members, inspiring those in better economic situations to give more.

"It's been amazing," said Evans. "We've been raffling off things like donated White Sox and Cubs tickets. Our business manager, Terry Allen, had 1,400 cases of Guinness beer donated at one of the union meetings, which helped us to raise more than $7,000. And we've seen people who've just started working again — some of them who received $50 grocery cards early on — donating when they get back on their feet. It makes you proud to be a member."

In addition to receiving gift cards and other monetary assistance, many members have had their local union dues paid for while they await job calls.

"The Helping Hand Fund and our other initiatives at Local 134 have helped increase the participation at our monthly union meetings," said Allen. "The response has been overwhelming. We used to have maybe 300 people come to union meetings, and we now have about 1,000. The Helping Hand fund is part of that." Allen estimates that members have donated about $28,000 in the past year.

The volunteers are hosting their first-ever fundraiser from 1-6 p.m. on April 28 at 115 Bourbon Street in nearby Merrionette Park.

Members who would like to contribute to the fund can do so at If you have any questions or would like more information, please call (312) 474-4151.


Volunteers at Chicago Local 134 administer the Helping Hand Fund. From left are Marty McElligott, Carmen Paulo, Dan Ruiz, Gene Kent, Mike Evans, Brennan Logue, Andy Donahue, Juan Little and Tim Ryan. Not pictured is Ryan Madiar.


Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user alykat.