Family Crisis Shows AFSCME Member the Caring Power of Her Union

11-27-2017
When AFSCME member Kimberly Bishop faced a financial emergency after her mother’s death, fellow member Lynne Larkin-Wright (above) was there to help. Larkin-Wright is an AFL-CIO community services liaison with the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation’s Labor Studies and Resource Center, which provides numerous services to help union members, including connecting people to community aid.
When AFSCME member Kimberly Bishop faced a financial emergency after her mother’s death, fellow member Lynne Larkin-Wright (above) was there to help. Larkin-Wright is an AFL-CIO community services liaison with the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation’s Labor Studies and Resource Center, which provides numerous services to help union members, including connecting people to community aid.

When Kimberly Bishop and her family moved to Minnesota in search of jobs and a better quality of life, they didn’t know a family crisis was about to hit and stretch their resources to the breaking point. The American Red Cross phlebotomist with Local 3931 was surprised to find another AFSCME member there to help, and to learn just how much her union had her back.

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“My family and I just moved here from North Carolina in May, looking for work. We wanted to live somewhere where it was a nice place to raise our kids. We’re thinking of our future. We want them to live in a nice area overall with a good cost of living, jobs and services. My oldest son is autistic. We’re considering his future when we’re gone.

I worked in the health care industry for 20 years doing different things. I had always wanted to work for the Red Cross, but whenever I was looking, there was never anything listed.

Then I found a posting.

When I went in for my interview and she gave me the job description, I was like, wow, I didn’t even know they did all of that. You set up bloodmobiles, you do your job, break it down and go home.

I was in the middle of training for my new job when I found out my mom was really sick and I needed to go see her. She was dying. She lived in California.

I was there for a week with her. I spent time with her. I said my goodbyes. The day after I left, I got the call she had passed away.

Because I’m new, none of that week off was paid. (I later got three days of bereavement because she had passed away). The week I was gone fell in the pay period where they took out my premium for my health insurance for the entire month.

I had $100 left on my paycheck.

I talked to my field representative and told her I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve only got $100 for two weeks. I’ve got two kids. I’m the only one working. My husband isn’t working yet. We’re not going to make it. Is there anything you can do to help? I’m just stuck between a rock and a hard place right now.

It was really hard for us to ask.

We didn’t have savings. We had moved here in May but I didn’t start working until July. We didn’t think it would take us that long to find a place to rent and a job. We ran out of money.

The rep told me we do have someone I can get you in contact with who may be able to help you. She got me (AFL-CIO community services liaison) Lynne Larkin-Wright’s phone number. She told me she’s AFSCME, too. I called her and told her the story.

She gave me a listing of all the food pantries in Mankato. She told me how they worked. Then she asked me what grocery stores we had. She said, ‘Oh good, Cub Foods is union, we can work with them. Let me see what I can do.’ She called me back and said she was able to get some gift cards from Cub to help us out.

When I got the gift cards in the mail, I’m like holy crap. It was $80 total!

It was a huge help. We were really scrounging. I had luckily paid all my bills with my previous paycheck. I was able to get a little bit from the church, dry foods, which definitely helped. But the situation left us completely devastated for food, for gas for the car, anything else we needed. It just left us flat. The help was tremendous.

The LSRC, which works in partnership with the United Way, provided Kimberly Bishop with referrals to food banks and Cub gift cards. When the gift cards arrived, Bishop was so moved, she took a picture.

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I was surprised. I had never worked union before. I had no idea of the resources. I went to a local meeting because I had no experience with a union. I wanted to be involved so I can feel empowered, so I knew how things worked, so I knew what I was getting into.

The fact they stepped in to help me and my family, it was a really personal gesture. I’m really moved. It made me feel happy that I’m with a union that cares about us as people.

Before we switched to union benefits, I was paying over $1,000 for my medical benefits. Now it’s about $400 for the whole family. It’s a lot cheaper now. With the other changes, we get more money on the per diem.

Ever since we went union, there is definitely more of a camaraderie between us, we have a voice, the concerns we have are going to be heard. We’re talking to each other, we’re uniting about concerns we have. It’s definitely brought us closer together.

You can help out fellow union members who are going through hard times like Bishop did by donating to the LSRC, Attn: Laura, 353 W. 7th St., #201, Saint Paul, MN 55102. Please write “emergency assistance” in the memo field.