The Greater Boston Labor Council (GBLC) is coordinating union members’ volunteer efforts, working closely with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh to focus on areas where there is the greatest need for help. The mission of the labor council’s volunteer brigades is to care for the most vulnerable people in Boston. Hundreds of union members, both laid off and currently working, already have started volunteering to serve their neighbors during this crisis.
The labor council’s volunteer brigade is focusing on emergency needs in Boston and the surrounding areas, including: identifying and coordinating child care needs, making phone calls to neighbors, and delivering food. GBLC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Darlene Lombos (IUPAT) and other labor leaders are in daily contact with Walsh and his office to ensure that union members are volunteering for the public good in ways that are most helpful.
“It’s about connecting the dots and making sure union members are protecting the most vulnerable. What we thought was not possible is happening—it’s quite incredible, in a crisis like this, to see that another world is possible,” Lombos said. “The solidarity here is just amazing. This is an incredible opportunity to help one another and deepen that solidarity.”
The Boston Teachers Union has enlisted more than 1,000 volunteers to supply urgent food delivery and other needs. Multilingual members of UNITE HERE Local 26 are helping people file unemployment claims. And members of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 11, all of whom are laid off, have been working on a face shield assembly line, crafting and providing a needed personal protective equipment product to hospitals and first responders across the region.
Other union members are making phone calls from home to remind and help their neighbors fill out census forms. The Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District in Boston is donating personal protective equipment to health care professionals.
Rachael Running, the communications organizer at GBLC, has been highlighting individual workers on the labor council’s website and social media channels. “Our Front-Line Heroes campaign is giving a voice to individual workers and paying respect,” Running said. “It’s also a way to celebrate our affiliates and all essential workers on the front lines.”
The GBLC leadership praised the work of affiliate unions fighting to create a fairer economy after the crisis subsides. “Unions that are doing impact bargaining are doing incredible work to set the floor for other workers who are nonunionized,” Lombos said. She also commended the cooperation between union and nonunion employees on the front lines.
To workers who are suffering across the country, Lombos shared a message of solidarity: “We have your back. We respect you, we honor you, and we’ll always be here to organize and fight with you. People have a genuine desire to help one another and that is the foundation on which we will build a better world for working people. This is a time of deep struggle, but we are seeing what is important—our human connections. Our broken world can begin to heal when we can envision a new world and organize for what is now possible: a world with the safety nets to catch us when we fall, a world where workers have the power to self-govern, a world that is compassionate and gentle and embodies solidarity. Solidarity is stronger than this broken world.”