Pierce County unions collect 4 tons of peanut butter

TACOMA – Labor unions in Pierce County collected more than 4 tons of peanut butter this spring for hungry families countywide.

PiercePeanutButterThe fourth-annual peanut butter drive, which is held in conjunction with the national Letter Carriers Food Drive in May, brought in 5,510 jars, said Patty Rose, the secretary-treasurer of the Pierce County Central Labor Council.

That represents an estimated 8,950 pounds of peanut butter.

“We exceeded last year’s total by about 10 percent,” Rose said. “That was a really great surprise.”

All the peanut butter was given to the Emergency Food Network to be distributed to food banks across Pierce County this summer.

Summer can be a particularly tough time for low-income families, because children don’t get free or reduced-price meals at school. That’s why the unions’ peanut butter drive is so important, said Dave Henry, who is one of Machinists Union District Lodge 751’s representatives to the Pierce County labor council.

“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are something every kid will eat,” he said. “It’s an important source of protein, and when we as union members make it available at food banks, it makes a real difference in these kids’ lives.”

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Lodge 483 in Tacoma was the top peanut butter donor in the Pierce County drive, bringing in 2,647 jars.

IAM 751 was No. 3, collecting 706 jars, weighing in at an estimated 1,150 pounds.

The success of the Pierce County drive has inspired other labor organizations to collect peanut butter as well. The Snohomish County Central Labor Council this year collected 1,577 pounds of peanut butter in its first-ever drive, and the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council – which represents union workers in Whatcom and Skagit counties – collected 1,014 pounds in its first drive.

“It’s exciting to see how this has spread,” said Rose, who started Pierce County’s peanut butter drive in 2011 with a modest collection of 173 jars. “Next year, I plan to challenge all labor councils in Washington state to participate.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 32,000 working men and women at 50 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

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