Toy drive provides holiday cheer to locked-out families
By Barb Kucera, Workday editor 22 December 2011
|EAST GRAND FORKS - Families of the 1,300 workers locked out of their jobs by American Crystal Sugar are having a happier holiday thanks to the generosity expressed through “Operating Christmas Solidarity.”
|A volunteer truck driver from Teamsters Local 120 arrived in the Red River Valley this week with a full semi-load of toys, bicycles, sporting goods and other items. He made stops in five communities in Minnesota and North Dakota affected by the lockout. In addition, another volunteer delivered goods to Crystal Sugar workers in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa.
All told, $18,000 in toys and gift cards was donated. Thousands more were raised for a hardship fund, including $5,000 from the Laborers union and $5,000 from the Teamsters Joint Council, said Erica Dalager, public relations director at the St. Paul office of American Income Life Insurance Company, which spearheaded the toy drive.
“It was wildly successful,” Dalager said of the effort, which was nicknamed “Operation Christmas Solidarity.”
“The truck was filled from front to back. There was no space left on it,” she said.
The St. Paul and Minneapolis Regional Labor Federations helped publicize the drive and served as drop-off locations. Many volunteers helped load the truck, which was provided free of charge by the Teamsters, Dalager said.
The effort showed that, although times are tough, people will reach out to help those in need. “There was a lot of giving, even from people who didn’t have a lot to give,” she said.
Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco & Grain Millers union have been locked out since Aug. 1, after rejecting a contract that would have made it easier to outsource their jobs.
On the union’s Facebook page, BCTGM Local 167G said the contributions were appreciated.
“We want to thank all of the groups who have provided gifts for our children this holiday season,” the union said. “From Christmas for Crystal Kids to the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, Teamsters, and broader Minnesota labor community, your generosity is truly amazing and a blessing.”
|Families peruse the toys and other items donated for the holidays (above). The Teamsters truck delivered the goods (below) along with a check for the hardship fund.
Photos by Derek Martin
Cash donations to help the locked-out workers may be sent to:
BCTGM Lockout Hardship Fund
c/o Local 167G
100 N 3rd Street- Suite 50
Grand Forks, ND 58203
Or checks payable to MN AFL-CIO, with “BCTGM Hardship Fund” in the memo line, may be mailed to:
175 Aurora Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55103