33rd Annual United Way-Labor Council Holiday Event Delivers
Food, Toys and Cheer to More Than 950 Families in Need


Media Contacts:        

Ann Marie Price

Scatena Daniels

EDITOR: To download images, click here.

Photos and assets courtesy of United Way of San Diego County

Union Workers Expand Their Giving to Meet Increased Need During the Pandemic

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 17, 2020) — This week, more than 950 families received dinners, toys, gifts and a tremendous amount of cheer to help ring in the holiday season! All items were donated by their fellow workers across San Diego & Imperial Counties. The 33rd Annual United Way of San Diego County and San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council Food & Toy Distribution is an annual tradition coordinated through their Unions United partnership. This event supports working families and community members who need extra help year-round thanks to the generosity from union teachers, firefighters, grocery workers, nurses, truck drivers, construction workers and more.

More than 700 families in San Diego County and 250 families in Imperial County benefitted from the 2020 drive distribution. This year, the pandemic has dramatically increased the number of families in need. The tourism and hospitality industries have been decimated by the pandemic – and the impact has been severe. To meet the need, union workers have increased their donations in partnership with United Way of San Diego County to help more families than ever before.

“Working people have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic and economic crisis. Families are unable to feed their kids because they are out of work, and they need help.” said Keith Maddox, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council. “Union workers have a tradition of solidarity and helping those most in need. Our labor movement comes together every year to ensure that families who are hurting have a holiday meal and their kids have toys to make things a little brighter.”

These workers support one another through Unions United, a partnership of the San Diego and Imperial Counties’ Labor Council’s and United Way of San Diego County. Donations are made from the union dues invested by the more than 200,000 workers the Labor Council represents to assist fellow working families and community members in need. In addition to funding the annual holiday event, these donations support a year-round food pantry at United Way of San Diego County’s headquarters and emergency assistance for workers. For United Way of San Diego County’s fiscal year, by leveraging federal funds and donations, Unions United provided over $757,000 in emergency assistance for rent or mortgage, utilities and food to more than 3,700 families. Last year, 2,582 individuals and families received Unions United’s assistance – including food, rent, mortgage utility support and other assistance. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the need for emergency hunger relief has increased exponentially. The Labor Council has seen their workers – hotel workers, janitors, stagehands and other retail and tourism workers – laid off or sent home without pay. From the outset of the crisis, the Labor Council and United Way of San Diego County have dedicated their focus to relief efforts on the front lines, through the Worker Assistance Initiative and other endeavors that expanded their reach to help a historic number of families in need.

“This year, all families have been impacted in one way or another by the pandemic. But many who experience economic and food instability year-round have gone through even more difficulties this year than others,” says Nancy Sasaki, president and CEO of United Way of San Diego County. “Our United Way team and partners at the Labor Council long-awaited this time-honored event to support families in our diverse communities who rely on extra support during the holiday season. Seeing the relief on the faces of the parents and knowing their children would be full of smiles on Christmas day, made our volunteers and staff fill up with joy. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!”

For over 30 years, United Way of San Diego County has partnered with more than 200,000 working families of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council to organize this event to assist workers and community members struggling to make ends meet. Over 100 volunteers from local unions came together today at Petco Park to give back to pre-selected union and community families who were the most in need. In addition to toys and gifts, all participating families received a bag of food with all the fixings needed to cook up a delicious holiday dinner.

I’ve been a hotel banquet captain for 25 years. The pandemic has cost me the job that I love,” said Ricardo Lavin. “I am grateful to have the support of so many workers in the community who have come together so that my grandkids and I can celebrate Christmas this year.”

To learn more, get help or donate, visit https://uwsd.org/our-work/family-stability/unions-united/.


For 100 years, United Way of San Diego County has aligned with partners to address inequities in the region and help underserved communities. United Way’s specialty lies in identifying sustainable, long-term goals and achieving them through leveraging data and partners’ expertise to better understand root causes and putting impactful solutions into action.

United Way’s work, in partnership with others, uses shared goals, innovation and proven practices to transform the lives of children, young adults and families in the San Diego region. United Way focuses on educational milestones, such as kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, high school preparation, and college and career pathways. Learn more and get involved by visiting www.uwsd.org, Facebook, Twitter, or by calling (858) 492-2000.


The San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council is a community of more than 200,000 working families standing together. At the Labor Council, nurses, teachers, firefighters, service workers and construction tradespeople join healthcare workers, hotel workers, janitors and zoo employees in their common fight for a voice on the job and at the decision making table. The Council and its 136 member unions seek to improve the lives of working people by advocating for living wages, housing that is affordable, quality healthcare and a secure retirement for all.