United Way Worldwide (“UWW”) announced recently that CEO Brian Gallagher will be stepping down from his position effective March 1, 2021. His resignation comes amidst allegations against UWW of sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliation against women employees speaking up.
Sexual harassment, or harassment of any nature, is not tolerated at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and we expect the same from UWW. Accordingly, in January, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley expressed our deep concern to the Board of Directors of UWW about these allegations and how the recent investigation into these issues was handled by UWW.
We agree with the UWW Board that the time is right for new leadership. Additionally, we are disappointed that the stated scope of the investigation was limited to whether UWW followed their own policies and procedures and did not independently review the broader allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against the organization, or the specific concerns raised by current and former women employees of a toxic work environment.
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (and United Way of the Greater Seacoast) is a regional nonprofit with its own leadership and board of directors that is separate from UWW. While we value our membership in the United Way network, our decisions, actions, policies, and procedures are governed locally and independently.
During a global pandemic and a community-wide reckoning on issues of equity and inclusion, the work of our local United Way has never been needed more. We remain intently focused on the work we are doing locally to address the urgent and immediate needs of vulnerable families in all communities impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and our ongoing commitment to fund our network of community-based organizations on the front lines of this work.
Since the onset of the crisis last March, we have distributed over $10 million dollars of special Covid-19 relief funds, serving over 317,000 people with assistance for food, housing, utilities, and other essential needs, in addition to our ongoing work in the 153 cities and towns we serve. Locally, we are undaunted to help those who need us the most, and equally committed to ensuring we are representative, inclusive and responsive to our communities and stakeholders.
It is going to take much more than emergency financial assistance to help families and communities recover from this crisis and rebuild. Critical early education and out of school time programs that families rely on to work have closed or are operating with more costs and lower enrollments, which is an unsustainable model. Roughly 90,000 Massachusetts residents are at risk of eviction or foreclosure, amounting to 27% of the state’s entire population. And food insecurity is at an all-time high, jumping from eight percent last year to 14 percent this year.
At United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, we believe that equitable and sustainable change for our communities happens when all our neighbors’ experiences and voices are heard, respected, and valued for their authenticity and relevance. We are grateful for our partnerships in helping us respond to our communities’ needs and look forward to the work we will do together to ensure that our region emerges from this moment stronger and more resilient than ever.