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Service + Solidarity Spotlight: Alaska Public Employees Pay Off Student School Meal Balances

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Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

With the pandemic hitting everyone economically, the members of the Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT elected to do what they could, paying off thousands of dollars of school meal balances.

“The Juneau Education Support Staff (JESS) Local 6096 Executive Board started thinking about how to use the money in April. We all wanted to help families and students in the community, and as the pandemic continued we started realizing how everyone needed to have some kindness come into their lives—they needed good news,” said Catherine Pusich, the board’s public relations officer.

The union paid off the balances for 564 students, totaling $7,446. Letters went out in the days before Christmas letting students and families know of the donation.

“We have been able to see firsthand how this pandemic has affected some of our more vulnerable students, and this donation from JESS will at least take one thing off the table that they will not have to worry about,” said Elizabeth White, a union member and meal cashier at Sayèik: Gastineau Community School. “We are pleased that they saw fit to use the money to take care of the families that are close to our hearts.”

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on January 11, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell  is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


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