The UNITED LABOR AGENCY, the direct outgrowth of the Cleveland AFL-CIO community-service department in Cleveland, has operated since 1970 as a labor-based multiservice agency. The agency began in 1968 when contacts between representatives of the community-service department of the Cleveland AFL-CIO and the UNITED WAY revealed the need for kidney dialysis among union members. As a result, the Community Dialysis Center, Inc., was established by members of 2 union affiliates of the Cleveland AFL-CIO to provide the service. The center's original executive committee consisted of Sebastian Lupica, executive secretary of the AFL-CIO in Cleveland; Frank Valenta, president of the Cleveland AFL-CIO; William Castevens, director of Region 2 of the UNITED AUTO WORKERS in Cleveland; and JACKIE PRESSER, president of Joint Council 41 of the Cleveland TEAMSTERS UNION. Mel Witt served as the center's first executive director.
In 1970 the center became the United Labor Agency, a multiservice agency designed to meet the various needs of the Cleveland community. In addition to the traditional services to labor in the event of strikes and layoffs, the agency provided daycare, services for the elderly, and addressed the problems of ex-criminal offenders back on the streets. The agency also sponsors the ULA Culture & Arts Education Committee founded by Ben Shouse, which helps bring labor into Cleveland's cultural life by supporting cultural and arts programming. Through the 1980s ULA expanded its role in the community with the help of federal grants for job training and employment counseling. In the 1990s ULA continued to offer these services, and also helped to operate pre-release centers for local correctional facilities.