Since 1946, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and United Way of America have enjoyed a cooperative relationship through which they and state and local United Ways provide services to members of organized labor, their families and their communities. Organized labor is also part of the decision-making process at United Way of America. Currently, there are four AFL-CIO representatives serving on United Way of America's Board of Trustees, with two of them on the executive committee. There are four union trustees in the volunteer structure of United Way International (UWI).
United Way and organized labor work together to:
- Train union members to assist co-workers and their families with information about available local services and to refer them to the appropriate organizations.
- Recruit, train and help place members of organized labor on the decision-making bodies of health and human-service organizations. This is done at the national, state and local levels.
- Recognize labor leaders who have rendered outstanding United Way volunteer service by annually awarding the Joseph A. Beirne Community Services Award, established in memory of that remarkable labor leader.
- Solicit contributions from workers through payroll deduction, which account for approximately two-thirds of the funds that United Ways raise each year. Through the Labor Letters of Endorsement Program of the Department of Labor Participation, the AFL-CIO president asks presidents of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions, state federations and central labor councils to send letters endorsing United Way campaigns to their memberships. The Labor Letters of Endorsement Program encourages individual union members to volunteer their time and contribute their resources to United Way campaigns.
- Provide a staff of almost 190 full-time AFL-CIO Community Services Liaisons to serve as links between their state federations and central labor councils and United Ways in 180 communities across the United States. In addition, 20 local labor agencies and five state labor agencies receive direct United Way support.
- Support the National Association of Letter Carriers' (NALC) National Food Drive held annually on the second Saturday in May. The drive stocks local community food banks, pantries and shelters with non-perishables that Letter Carriers collect from customers along their mail routes. The drive, which has become the world's largest one-day food drive, was started by NALC in 1991 in cooperation with the U.S. Postal Service and the AFL-CIO. United Way is a full partner in this drive.