MOLINE, Ill. — A GoFundMe supporting United Auto Workers on strike at John Deere has raised over $50,000 in just three days.
Organizers said all of the money will directly benefit union employees on the picket lines, as many workers settle in for a potential long haul.
UAW strike pay is just $275 a week, and while union members can look for another job, the reality of finding separate income during a strike is limited.
"That's not a lot to live on," said Scott Houldieson, a UAW member working at Chicago's Ford assembly plant. "People are going to have to try and make ends meet whatever way they can."
It's why Houldieson helped set up the GoFundMe, through his group the UAWD. It stands for "Unite All Workers through Democracy" and is a grassroots movement within the larger UAW. UAWD said its goal is to create a more accountable democratic union.
"We're a big community, and we're trying to help," said Houldieson.
Within two and a half days of launching its fund, the group had already received an overwhelming $44,000 in nationwide donations. A brief cap on further aid was instated Monday morning to allow UAWD time to process what to do with all the money. But just hours after opening up donations again, the pot soared past $50,000.
According to UAW rules, union members are not allowed to receive cash donations, so UAWD has other plans for dispersing the funds to the 10,000 striking John Deere workers.
"We're thinking probably grocery vouchers or similar things are going to be the best way to help support the strikers, our union family," said Houldieson. "This money is going exclusively to John Deere workers. None of this will go into UAWD funding."
Houldieson said directly supporting those on the picket lines is the best way to take care of union members, their families and the communities they live in.
"The money that goes into the hands of the workers gets dispersed locally in your communities," said Houldieson. "Whereas the the money that goes to shareholders gets sequestered into Wall Street stock funds and mutual funds and venture capitals and, you know, all sorts of things that does absolutely nothing to help the communities that we live in and that thrive off of the labor of workers."
Beyond the bills, Houldieson said donations also show of solidarity for union members - something he warns will be even more needed if the weeks drag on, the weather gets colder and the paychecks remain smaller than normal.
"It's a morale lift for the workers to see that people care about their issue and care about them winning a good contract and being able to support their families and their communities," he said. "I would say, swing by the picket lines to just let folks know that they have your support. Be willing to walk with them on a picket line, drop off a case of water or something to just show that you care. It doesn't have to be a huge donation."
He does caution all potential donors to carefully examine any fundraiser before giving to avoid scammers.
"Look into the source of where you're making the donation to, and if you don't trust it, don't donate," said Houldieson. "That's the best advice I can give."