Update: Union Solidarity in a Time of Need

Being a part of a union means being a part of a family. It’s a group of workers that are connected on and off the work site. Members not only support one another, but they care for the communities they help build. This is exactly what one 12-year member has done in Wisconsin Rapids, WI. 

Eleven years ago, Local 1056 member Mike Wolosek, started the Fright for Life Halloween Aid party in his own backyard. Losing a sister to leukemia, Mike found himself in a position to help a fellow union member and his daughter who was diagnosed with the same cancer. What started as one event to help one family in need, turned into an annual effort that brings together a whole community.

With the help of his wife, Bonita, and their family, the Woloseks October fund raiser has grown in popularity and success. For over a decade, the Sunday before Halloween, Mike and Bonita organize a community event where thousands gather for trick or treating, music, theater performances and more. In the 11 years of Fright for Life Halloween Aid, more than $165,000 has been raised, with every cent supporting neighbors in need. 

With local business donations and 50 volunteers, the Fright for Life event saw more than 2,000 attendees this year and raised a record $35,000 in support of Brian Ortner and his family. Brian is a union lineman for Solarus. In July, he suffered a paralyzing accident working on storm damage in the area and is now immobile from the chest down. Brian recently returned home after three months of intensive therapy in Colorado. Facing new and unexpected challenges, the Ortners will use the $35,000 raised for a more accessible home.

From left to right: Amy Ortner, Mike and Bonita Wolosek, and Brian Ortner

This year, Mike Wolosek’s union, Local 1056, donated $1,000, inviting others to match or top the donation. A total of $8,100 was received from the following unions:  Local 1056 Millwrights, Local 388 Electricians, Local 434 Pipefitters, Local 4670 Solarus Linemen, Local 1147 Verso Electricians, Local 655 Verso Millwrights, Local 187 Verso Papermakers, Local 94 Verso Pulp and Sulphite, Portage County Labor Council, Wood County Labor Council, and Domtar Papermakers Nekoosa.

“All the money will go to help our family adjust to this new paralyzed life we’re going to live,” said Brian’s wife, Amy Ortner. “With the community support, we know that we can have a life that is somewhat what it used to be,” she stated. 

On Nov. 26, organizers gave thanks by presenting funds raised from the annual Fright for Life Halloween Aid party to the Brian Ortner family. Brian’s fellow union member also won this year’s raffle and donated $2,000 of his winnings to the Ortner’s in a generous display of solidarity.

From Left to right: Alex Hansen (IBEW Local 388) pictured with Dean Miller (IBEW Local 388), Logan Wolosek (IBEW Local 388), Amy Ortner and Brian Ortner

“On behalf of the Ortners and my wife, Bonita Wolsek and myself, I would like to thank you. What a great union story for all fellow union brothers and sisters from different locals to come together in a time of need. A great example of union solidarity,” said Mike. 

Part of the Wolosek’s haunted yard

To view WSAW’s news story, go here: https://www.wsaw.com/content/news/Halloween-Aid-party-supports-family-of-injured-lineman-563958201.html