Over 95 years ago, labor leaders formed The Union Labor Life Insurance Company to provide financial security to the movement’s members and their families.
At the time, many union members were denied life insurance because they worked in high-risk jobs or because they were affiliated with a union. Without life insurance, families of union members were often left without the financial resources they needed if their primary wage earner was killed on the job. Workers could spend a lifetime providing for their families and see the fruits of their effort wiped away in an instant.
The need for life insurance prompted Matthew Woll, president of the Photo Engravers Union and George Perkins, president of the Cigar Makers Union, to raise the issue during the 1923 American Federation of Labor Convention. They found support from Samuel Gompers, the first and longest-serving president of the American Federation of Labor, who saw the value in a union-owned insurance company.
After four years of preparation and a $400,000 dollar investment from the Bank of Labor, The Union Labor Life Insurance Company opened its doors for business in 1927. By the end of its first year of operations, The Union Labor Life Insurance Company had issued enough life insurance policies to cover nearly 50,000 union members.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
In times of economic upheaval, Ullico has been a steady hand that focuses on labor’s needs. Over the years, the company has responded to those needs and developed the products to fill them. When the labor market found itself without viable solutions for life and health insurance, workers’ compensation, fiduciary and union liability insurance, and investment products, Ullico stepped in to fill the void.
In 1977, the company launched Separate Account J (J for Jobs), an investment vehicle that finances commercial real estate properties on a national basis. When it began, J for Jobs was the first of its kind. With many of their members out of work during the 1970s recession, unions sought innovative ways to grow their funds and stimulate job creation. Out of this need, J for Jobs was born.
Discussions with local tradesmen in New York City provided the impetus for J for Jobs, and those same union leaders became the first investors. Since then, many unions have come on board, and J for Jobs has made a significant historical and economic impact.
Through J for Jobs, Ullico originates and manages high-quality commercial first mortgages while seeking to deliver attractive and competitive fixed-income performance to institutional investors. At the same time, J for Jobs promotes union members, union leaders, and signatory employers by requiring that the construction projects it finances use 100 percent union labor.
In 2010, Ullico introduced the Ullico Infrastructure Fund as a tool to combat the overwhelming infrastructure needs of the country, while providing jobs for union members and rebuilding communities.
Since its inception, the fund has participated in projects worth billions of dollars of economic development, and its potential for continued growth is unlimited.