Churches partner with union to care for unemployed auto workers.
It’s been nearly two years since the final car rolled off the assembly line at the Chrysler plant in Newark. Since that time, the economy and the job market has not yet recovered. Neither have hundreds of workers left unemployed by the shuttering of the plant.
On Thursday, a group of Newark churches in cooperation with the local United Auto Workers union stepped up to provide a day of services and distraction for those workers and their families. It was dubbed the first annual UAW Local 1183 Care Fair.
Local 1183 financial secretary Alena Bandy says the fair is an effort to help many of the 700 auto workers who are still out of work. “They have no health care. They may have taken a buyout from their employer however they’re not entitled to any unemployment benefits for 24 months, and even during that time they would have to work somewhere else.”
The fair offered free health care screenings and haircuts, plus free backpacks for kids headed back to school. Kids were also able to get inside a real stock car and take a few laps with a remote control race track.
The day-long event was started by a group of Newark area churches who felt the need to reach out to help the community. Dave Carey is the pastor of Word of Life Christian Center, which is just down the road from the UAW union hall. He says, “Rather than just stay in the four walls of our church, we’re actually going out to where the needs are. We’re in a very difficult time period. People are under a lot of stress with unemployment.”
Carey says the effort started with a simple meeting with state lawmakers about how the churches could help the community. The lawmakers answer to the churches was to connect with the local UAW, and that’s just what they did. “We’re carrying out the command of Jesus where he said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ So we cannot have our neighbors in a stressful situation without doing all that we can to help.”