unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in October (3.9 percent in
Indiana), a 17-year low, while the Consumer Confidence Index is now at a
But tell that to
Melanie, a Dunelander with six kids who works as a phlebotomist--average
hourly wage, according to PayScale.com: $14.15--and who’s struggling to put
food on the table, make the nut on rent, and pay off her student loans.
Making ends meet on
a shoestring is always stressful but never more so than during the holidays,
when tight budgets stretch to breaking. This year, though, Melanie has
something to be truly thankful for: hers is one of more than 40 families
who’ll celebrate their Christmas courtesy of United Steelworkers Local 6787,
representing workers at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor.
On Tuesday evening
at the Valparaiso Target, moms, dads, and their children--100 kids in
all--gathered to shop, as Local 6787 provided parents with $100 for every
child in the family plus a $25 Strack & Van Til gift card for a turkey or
ham. All told, Local 6787 collected $15,265.87 from its membership as well
as from local businesses to put Christmas under these folks’ trees.
For Local 6787
President Pete Trinidad Sr., it’s all about paying it forward. “We’re
fortunate to have living-wage jobs,” he told the Chesterton Tribune.
“Because of that we can reach out and help others in need. We want people to
know that we know how blessed we are. Unions sometimes get a black
eye. Sometimes the publicity is pretty critical. But today we’re making our
Yet there’s a
larger point to be made too: unions don’t simply protect and prosper their
members, they’re also the backbone of the community. “When we go to bargain,
it’s not just for us,” Trinidad said. “It’s for our community. We shop
local. We put our wages back into the small businesses, the mom-and-pop
operations, the restaurants, the auto parts stores, the barbershops, the
businesses in turn have stepped up as well. One way Local 6787 raised the
money for the Target shopping spree is by selling window placards to local
businesses--many of them in Duneland--reading “Proud Supporter of USW,
Steelworkers for Kids.” A list of those businesses was then posted in the
plant, with Local 6787 encouraging its members to take their trade to them.
“The response from the businesses has just been phenomenal,” Trinidad said.
For Melanie and her
family, it’s going to be a warm and blessed Christmas. “It’s just wonderful
what the Steelworkers are doing,” she said. “And I’m so appreciative and
grateful to them. It really helps out a lot.”