Unions call for aid to Hurricane Harvey victims

With Hurricane Harvey devastating Houston and the Gulf Coast, and heading slowly – and with tremendous downpours – towards Louisiana, unions called for aid to the monster storm’s victims, including their own members in the two states.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Houston,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told an August 30 press breakfast on Labor Day and the state of workers in the U.S. “Our unions are mobilizing to provide assistance to help the region recover.”

Union moves to help Harvey’s victims included:

• The Texas AFL-CIO established a tax-deductible Texas Workers Relief Fund and promised to “provide updates on relief efforts and volunteer opportunities.” Checks can go to PO Box 12727, Austin, Texas 78711.

• The Fire Fighters said Harvey has left Houston, which virtually drowned in 52 inches of rain and flooding. But it moved to southeast Texas, “where all of Port Arthur is under three to six feet of water.” Port Arthur Local 397 “has been doing water rescues since yesterday.”

The union is also appealing for tax-deductible donations to its disaster relief fund, while its area vice president, Danny Todd, headed for southwest Louisiana to set up relief operations there. Union President Harold Schaitberger went to Houston, where Local 341’s president briefed him on the damage, now running into the billions of dollars, and its impact on members.

“Two fire stations had to be abandoned due to high water, and staffing was relocated to other fire stations,” IAFF said.  But the union, which leads first responders, asked members not to “self-dispatch to the disaster zone” i.e. travel to Texas. It asked them to donate, instead.

• The Steelworkers, who represent Texan oil refinery workers whose plants and drilling platforms Harvey shut, flooded or both, asked their locals nationwide to donate funds.

Ruben Garza, director of Steelworkers District 13, promised in a letter on USW’s website that the union “will, as in the past, help out as much as we can and in the coming days try to see what the needs of the members and their families are.”

He asked other locals around the U.S. to contribute either to the charitable fund at USW headquarters or to send checks to District 13 Secretary-Treasurer Jordy Richardson, with a notation that it’s for disaster relief, at PO Box 490, Gonzales, La. 70737.

• The Communications Workers, who represent more than 10,000 state and local government workers in Texas, also members to donate funds, though their giving would not be tax-deductible, it admitted.

“Hurricane Harvey has devastated Texas and the Gulf Coast. Your contributions to the CWA Hurricane Harvey Solidarity Fund will help CWA members affected by this disaster.”

The checks should go to the fund, located at The Parkway, Building One, 4801 Southwest Parkway, Suite 145, in Austin, Texas 78735.

It also appealed for donations online through the CWA Disaster Network.

• The Office and Professional Employees reminded members of how everyone stepped up when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, home of its largest locals. It asked everyone to step up in generosity again.

“Hurricane Harvey is probably the largest natural disaster ever faced in Texas. The resulting downpours have caused untold damage in Houston, Galveston Island, Corpus Christi, Beaumont-Port Arthur, parts of central Texas and many areas in between. And, as we all know, things could get much worse over the days ahead as heavy rains continue to fall,” said union President Richard Lanigan.

“We know we won’t be able to fully compensate” OPEIU members in Texas “for everything they’ve lost, but we can provide them with some relief and, hopefully, the strength to meet the challenges that lie ahead. This message of solidarity will let them know their union stands strongly behind them in these most difficult times,” Lanigan added. Checks should go to Secretary-Treasurer Mary Mahoney, at OPEIU headquarters, 80 Eighth Avenue in New York City, 10011.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride sent out an union-wide e-mail on August 28, seeking contributions to the union’s Fallen Heroes Fund. Since then, 420 people have given more than $17,000, they reported. AFSCME has 7,400 Texas members, many of them in Houston.

Their local affiliate, the Houston Organization of Public Employees, said its correctional officer-members helped evacuate 5,000 prisoners without incident and its city workers are joining Fire Fighters and police in rescuing people and delivering water to stranded residents. “One AFSCME member even helped deliver a baby in the back of a truck,” HOPE reported.

• The Theatrical and Stage Employees directed Texas members to contact its Los Angeles office for relief information, and Louisianans to call the New York office. It also reminded unionists that “union members who participate in certain Union Plus programs and have been affected by Hurricane Harvey may be eligible for financial assistance through the Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant program.”

Among those eligible: Unionists who received Union Plus aid after Hurricane Katrina hit, 12 years ago to the day, IATSE said. Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents fled or were evacuated to Houston then, and thousands remained there.

Source: PAI