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7th Annual USA Fundraising Gala Celebrates Mission Expansion, Union Brotherhood and Valued Partners

July 22, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard of the United States Military District of Washington presented the colors at the beginning of the USA’s Fundraising Gala.

In the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) held its 7th Annual Fundraising Gala July 16 at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.

With more than 200 in attendance, the union-powered nonprofit organization raised nearly $200,000 in net proceeds to help propel its mission to unite the union community in providing access to the outdoors, opportunities for all, and preserving North America’s outdoor heritage.

“It’s been only 12 years since we launched the USA,” AFL-CIO President, USA founder and board chair Richard Trumka said in his address to the group. “And we now have more than 300,000 active members—and counting.”

The USA draws on the talents of its members—union brothers and sisters who possess a variety of trade and organizational skills—who volunteer their time to participate in projects that benefit conservation and public access in their local communities. Volunteers also donate time to outreach events such as youth outdoors days and veterans’ fishing events.

AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka addressed the gathering.

“The USA was responsible for more than 40 conservation projects from Maine to Oregon through our Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program last year,” added Trumka, “where more than 600 volunteers donated 5,000-plus hours worth a quarter-million dollars in skilled union labor.

“And in one day—a single day—800 kids across the country got the chance to experience the thrill of casting a line and catching a fish through our outreach programs. Since 2017, we’ve introduced over 10,000 kids to fishing through our Get Youth Outdoors program!”

Jeanette Mauk, Ohio AFL-CIO field representative and recipient of the USA’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award, summed up the volunteer experience. “We do what we do because it’s in our hearts,” she said. “Union members want to give back to the communities in which they work and live, and doing things like renovating a disabled-accessible fishing pier at a public park, or putting on a Take Kids Fishing Day does just that, while strengthening ties between union members and their neighbors.”

“Coming together as union brothers and sisters to support our communities is what it’s all about,” echoed Insulators Local 14 Apprenticeship Training Director John Stahl. He organized and led a multi-faceted Work Boots on the Ground project to enhance public access and rebuild facilities at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia last year, which continues in 2019. The undertaking, which earned the USA’s 2018 Conservation Project of the Year Award at the Gala, directly benefits the 35 million people who live within a two-hour drive of this urban refuge.

The final individual honor presented at the Gala, the USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, went to United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey Robinson. One of the organization’s original founders, Robinson now serves on the board of directors, and was recognized for his longtime service to the USA.

USA President and CEO Scott Vance also thanked the organization’s Charter Unions for their unwavering support to the mission of uniting union members in service to their communities.

USA Charter Unions include:

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Association of Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
International Union of Elevator Constructors
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
IUE–CWA Industrial Division
Laborers International Union of North America
North America’s Building Trades Unions
NFL Players Association
United Association
United Auto Workers
United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers
Utility Workers Union of America

Vance is also quick to point out that the organization’s ability to contribute to the welfare of the outdoors and people who cherish it lies not only with its dedicated unions and their members.

“From the beginning, we’ve welcomed and are grateful for the assistance and steadfast support from corporate partners who are devoted to our mission,” he said. “Partners like the Union Insurance Group (UIG), Bank of Labor, the Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO) and Carhartt. Each of these organizations is a Diamond Level Partner, having provided more than $1 million each to the USA over the past 12 years.”

Four organizations were given special recognition during the event for their part in supporting USA’s mission. For donations surpassing $250,000, Lifetime Partner Awards were presented to Segal Consulting/Marco Advisors, Provost-Umphrey Law Firm, American Income Life Insurance Co., and Pure Fishing. Special thanks went to founding partner Buck Knives for its invaluable contributions dating back to the USA’s inception, including handsome, custom-logoed knives for the Gala. Additional founding partners include AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, Bank of Labor, UIG, and ULLICO.

“There is no way the USA could have become as big, or as strong, or accomplished as much, without the support of these valuable and loyal founding partners and those who have joined them in support of our mission,” Vance said.

Along with the awards program and great fellowship, event attendees enjoyed a delicious meal and beverages, generously supplied and served by the Union Insurance Group, and had a fabulous time participating in the event’s fundraiser raffle and auction. Donated items ranged from a Florida Keys tarpon adventure and African safari to custom firearms and a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl.

Many thanks to all those who attended and helped support the USA’s mission.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Volunteer Labor Donations Top Million Dollar Mark

February 12, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USA volunteers building educational kiosks in Michigan recently pushed the total value of labor donated through the organization’s Work Boots on the Ground program over the $1,000,000 mark.

Fueled by a flurry of project completions and strategic partnerships, the value of volunteer labor donated by Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) members to community-based conservation projects through the Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program has topped the $1,000,000 mark.

The milestone was reached as a crew of union volunteers from the United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford Community Service Ramp Program put the final touches on five informational kiosks for the USA’s conservation partners at Pheasants Forever. The kiosks will be placed on game management areas around Michigan to educate the public on the benefits of habitat, conservation and hunting.

The project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites union workers to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country.

The USA celebrated its 100th WBG project in late 2017 and to date has coordinated the completion of 156 projects in 30 states and the District of Columbia. USA volunteers have logged 29,937 hours on these efforts, which include 63 outreach campaigns, 85 infrastructure projects and eight support projects.

WBG kicked off in 2010 under the guidance of program manager Jim Klatt. The first project saw union volunteers craft supersize mesh-and-metal live traps for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) researchers to use in buck mortality and fawn recruitment studies. As has since been the case in many WBG projects, the work would not have been possible without union volunteers. The DNR had secured funding to purchase building materials for the live traps but lacked the skilled labor and workspace to build them.

The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program kicked off in 2010, when union volunteers created live traps like this prototype for Wisconsin DNR whitetail deer research.

“We are extremely proud of our volunteers for reaching this milestone,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “They are without a doubt our greatest asset. Their willingness to freely donate time and talents to benefit their neighbors and protect our outdoor heritage continually propels us to new heights in mission delivery and impact.

“Our volunteers are also what make us so unique as a non-profit conservation organization,” he added. “They are the most well-trained and skilled volunteers in the world because of their unique apprenticeship and trades experience. Providing skilled and trained volunteers who can do things that other volunteer groups cannot is clearly our unique niche among the conservation community.”

The USA already has plenty in the works for 2019, including projects and events in communities coast to coast. In what promises to be the largest project to date, the group rallied a coalition of public, private and union partners to construct a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the marine-focused conservation education center serves more than 11,000 youth and adults annually. Union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, while the USA also contributed $20,000 and Southern States Millwright Council donated $50,000. National union contractor Ben Hur Construction is providing an additional $100,000 of in-kind donation to the project.

A large-scale enhancement project is also planned for the William Powers State Recreation Area in southeast Chicago, which includes construction of an ADA-compliant fishing pier. Additional projects range from the construction of a weigh station-pavilion on the shores of Smith Lake near Jasper, Alabama, to the refurbishment of a public pier at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge just outside Liberty, Texas. Union volunteers are also gearing up to build a pedestrian walkway in Prineville, Oregon, that will open access to 70 acres of public property, and install a handicap accessible fishing pier in Harrison County, Mississippi.

The USA is also organizing a pair of Get Youth Outdoors Day events in concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. A number of youth fishing events are also on the docket. The USA’s 2019 Take Kids Fishing Day schedule kicked off in Minnesota in January, with additional events set for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Nichols Park Restoration Receives USA 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award

August 2, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nichols Park Restoration

Oklahoma AFL-CIO President Jim Curry and Communications Director Debra Wojtek accepted the 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award from USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance (L) and Director of Conservation Forrest Parker (R) on behalf of the many union partners involved in the Nichols Park restoration.

Union volunteers’ restoration of historic Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, as a community gathering place in the great outdoors has garnered the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 2017 Conservation Project of the Year Award.

Including follow-up work in 2018, more than 100 union workers from 23 union locals donated over 2,475 hours of skilled labor valued at nearly $91,000 and raised in excess of $13,000 for materials to complete a variety of critical improvements to the popular park.

Among the upgrades, volunteers replaced a pavilion roof, improved lighting, replaced picnic tables, cleared overgrown areas and replaced a dilapidated fishing dock with an ADA-compliant floating pier. Union volunteers also built and installed a new flagpole at the park entrance and constructed new camp-style barbecue grills.

Part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, the Nichols Park restoration project was a team effort by the USA, the Oklahoma AFL-CIO and Oklahoma State Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC).

“This project is a picture-perfect representation of what drives the USA’s mission and how the union community eagerly embraces the opportunity to unite for conservation and community service,” said USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker, who announced the award July 24 at the USA’s annual Conservation Gala in Washington, D.C. “Union volunteers completely transformed an aging, poorly maintained city park into a place where the community can once again come together to enjoy the outdoors.”

Nichols Park Restoration

Union volunteers donated more than $100,000 in labor and materials to restore Nichols Park as a community gathering place in the outdoors.

Henryetta Mayor Jennifer Clason hailed the project and declared a special “Union Day” in its honor. “Restoring this historic park, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941, was fabulous for our city,” she said. “What union volunteers did would have taken months for city crews to even begin to accomplish. The fishing dock would have been years out, if even on the radar due to the dilapidated infrastructure our city faces.

“We will be forever thankful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for making this project happen without cost to our city,” Clason added. “It was truly amazing to see our park transformed from a work in progress to a dream getaway.”

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to the Nichols Park restoration project: Oklahoma State AFL-CIO; Oklahoma BCTC; OPEIU Local 381; IAHFI Locals 94 and 64; TWU Local 514; UA Locals 344 and 430; IBEW Locals 584, 1002, 1141; NALC Local 442; GMP Local 48; SMART Locals 124 and 270; IUOE Local 627; BAC Local 5; IAMAW Local 850; Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma; LIUNA Local 107; USW; Roofers Local 143; and the city of Henryetta.

“It feels good being part of something that benefits your community,” said Oklahoma BCTC Executive Director Jimmy Fish. “I’m proudest of the new pier, which gives people a place to fish in the local area. It was very rewarding to see all the kids come down here and catch fish on it during the dedication celebration.”

Nichols Park Restoration

Among the many improvements to the park, union volunteers replaced a dilapidated fishing dock with an ADA-compliant floating pier.