By KEVIN ZAPF HANES
Six members from New York City-based AFSCME District Council 37 (DC 37) are in Puerto Rico to help residents rebuild their lives after Hurricane Maria devastated the commonwealth.
The Caribbean island, home to 3.5 million U.S. citizens, is in desperate need of highly skilled workers.
The DC 37 members are lending their expertise to the larger relief effort under way as our union works to help all residents, including thousands of working and retired AFSCME sisters and brothers represented by Servidores Publicos Unidos de Puerto Rico (SPUPR)/AFSCME Council 95, get back on their feet.
Partnering with the AFL-CIO and some of its member unions, AFSCME sent five construction workers and a nurse to the island.
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders said the DC 37 members’ efforts are characteristic of how the women and men of AFSCME show their commitment to service even beyond their communities.
“This is what AFSCME does when times get tough. We step up for one another,” Saunders said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s down the road or across the country. It’s about serving those who need our help.”
DC 37 members joined members from the AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW). United Airlines flew the team of first responders and skilled volunteers – including nurses, doctors, firefighters, electricians, engineers, carpenters and truck drivers – to help rebuild Puerto Rico.
DC 37 members will coordinate with the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO and the City of San Juan on various efforts to provide much-needed humanitarian aid.
The devastation in Puerto Rico is unprecedented. Many roads and bridges are unfit for travel. Water and electricity are out across much of the island. Hospitals are struggling to care for patients and cell and internet service is spotty at best, making communication difficult.
Members of Congress are sending message of support to SPUPR members and pledging help. AFSCME members can also help our sisters and brothers affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria by donating to our Fallen Heroes Fund.