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September 2015

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Union Plus Mortgage Program Helps Philly Member

Workers took a wallop in the recession — and Eric Hudson was no exception.

During the recent economic downturn, the 16-year Philadelphia Local 98 member twice went more than six months without work. But the bills kept stacking up, and Hudson was getting nervous about his mortgage.

"I did what I could to keep some money coming in during hard times," he said. He also had previously refinanced his house using the Union Plus mortgage program — which made the difference during the lean periods.

Hudson accessed Union Plus' mortgage assistance, which can help union members keep their homes in the event of a strike, lockout, layoff or disability.

After reading about the program online, Hudson applied for and received $2,500 in interest-free assistance, which he started repaying at $75 per month. Then, when work picked up again as the economy improved, he paid off the rest in one big chunk. "I've just worked 30 days without a day off," he said. "I figured I'd get the money paid back so help will be there for other union members who need it."

Union Plus' mortgage program has helped over 200,000 working families buy or refinance their homes. Learn more at


Philadelphia Local 98 member Eric Hudson: 'I'd never planned to use the program, but I was glad Union Plus was there for me when I needed them.'

After Surgery, Union Plus had His Back

For 45 years, there was never any quit in Leon Smith. First as a mechanic, then a nonunion electrician and for the last 20 years as a member of San Antonio Local 60, Smith has worked hard doing hard work. But after almost a half century of the lifting, pulling, bending and cranking of a construction electrician's life, Smith's back stopped working.

"For the last two years or so, I was working on a big project with a lot of heavy lifting," Smith says. "That was the worst time. It got to the point that I couldn't take it anymore."

Smith had a herniated disk, a slip in the rubbery padding between two vertebrae. Every day bone wore on bone and nerves in his back were compressed by the inflammation and every day the pain was a little worse. His doctors told him he had no choice but to have back surgery.

Smith was on the operating table for hours while doctors fused the injured vertebrae and inserted titanium rods into his spine. It was successful, but as expected, recovery took months of physical therapy and rest.

Belonging to the IBEW made it possible to get the surgery and the disability payments would keep his family afloat, but months without full pay still created a financial pain.

"The bills keep coming even when you can't work," Smith says. "I've been getting some weekly help from the IBEW but eventually, we used up all our savings just getting our bills paid up."

Fortunately, Smith had another advantage only available to union members: a Union Plus Credit Card. Union Plus provides a range of assistance programs for eligible cardholders who miss work due to medical disability. Grants of $1,600 to $2,700 are available to Union Plus Credit Card holders who meet the eligibility requirements.

Smith said his wife was looking through the bills one day and saw a mailing from Union Plus about Disability Grants. Smith received a $2,700 Union Plus Disability Grant that he says is going to be a big help until he can start working again.

"They really came through for me," Smith said.

Union Plus card holders are also eligible for assistance due to job loss and hospitalizations. There is also a program to help disabled or unemployed IBEW members keep their houses. The Union Plus Mortgage Assistance Program can provide grants and interest-free loans and grants.


San Antonio Local 60 member Leon Smith received a $2,700 Union Plus disability grant when he was sidelined by back surgery.

Toronto NextGen Growing, Giving

About a year ago, the Toronto Local 353 young workers — or NextGen — committee was just getting off the ground. While initial meetings were small, with about five or so attendees, there was a clear desire to grow and make an impact.

Now, after months of skill building, hosting their own monthly meetings and spreading the word, dozens of new members have come into the NextGen fold.

More than just meeting, the group is taking their energy to the community. Last month, more than 25 NextGen members volunteered to help rewire and refurbish a facility for Ontario's Community Association for Riding for the Disabled, which offers therapeutic horse riding activities for young people with cognitive and physical disabilities.

Next up, the young workers are going to challenge the local's retirees in a clothing drive. Seeing who can get the most donations offers a bit of friendly competition that "pits the old school against the new," said Jason Mitchell, a local union organizer who is chair of Toronto's NextGen committee.

"We've come a long way," Mitchell said. "It takes time to build something like this, but it's rewarding once it takes off. It's all about giving people an added sense of brotherhood. We're excited about the future."

NextGen is the Canadian version of the IBEW's Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers — or RENEW — initiative, created to inspire younger workers to become active in their local unions.

To learn more about CARD, visit And to visit the Toronto 353 NextGen Facebook group go to