US unions send specialists, supplies to Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN — A plane with supplies and 320 specialists in health, construction and drivers of heavy equipment arrived Wednesday to Puerto Rico as part of a joint effort of the unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
The team of specialists consists of 93 health professionals (nurses, doctors and technicians), 80 construction and cleaning workers (engineers, electricians, masons and carpenters) and 85 heavy equipment drivers. The plane also arrived with supplies of food, water and other essentials.
The treasury secretary of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, traveled to the island with the specialists and expressed their solidarity with the workers and the people of Puerto Rico. This will be the first of several actions that they will carry out as part of the mission called Unions for Puerto Rico.
“The working people in our trade union movement have united, sending our solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. Now, we will do more to help Puerto Ricans. We have brought emergency teams, and our brothers and sisters will, with their different capacities, help the efforts in Puerto Rico,” Shuler affirmed.
“Our movement is better when we work together during these times of need. But, we are much better off when we find a common cause with our business and industry partners to elevate our communities,” said the AFL-CIO treasury secretary.
Unions for Puerto Rico is a relief effort comprised of Puerto Rican unions affiliated to the AFL-CIO, along with the University of Puerto Rico’s Brotherhood of Non-Teaching Employees (Heend by its Spanish acronym), which jointly represent 75,000 union members. The AFL-CIO has 12 million members in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Emergency funds from local unions and the AFL-CIO will provide assistance to workers and communities in various affected municipalities.
The president of the Puerto Rico Workers Federation (FTPR-AFLCIO), José Rodríguez Báez, explained that the specialists that arrived Thursday will initially work in relief efforts in several municipalities, including San Juan, Canóvanas, Loíza, Guaynabo, Comerío and Ponce. They are expected to arrive to other places prospectively. In addition, they have coordinated to distribute help trough the nonprofit organization the Boys and Girls Club.
“The unions are working to help our people. We workers know firsthand the shortcomings of our people and the slowness of this whole process. We are here to assist in the entire contingent of humanitarian aid that various civil society organizations are bringing, in order to take them directly into the hands of the needy, including our colleagues,” said Rodríguez Báez.
The humanitarian flight (Boeing 777-300ER, one of the largest aircrafts) arrived Wednesday operated voluntarily by union members from 17 states that are members of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the Association of Pilots (Alpa), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Iamaw). Employees also operated the ramps at Newark, New Jersey, and San Juan airports.
With the support of the Municipality of San Juan, Unions for Puerto Rico established an Emergency Operations Center for union members at the Estudia Conmigo library at the Hiram Bithorn complex in Hato Rey. For more information, members can call (787) 360-1449.
Unions for Puerto Rico is comprised of the following groups:
- The Puerto Rico Workers Federation
- Liuna-Labor International Union of North America
- FCT-UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers)
- SPU-AFSCME United Public Workers
- IBEW- Electritians Association
- AFT-AMPR Puerto Rico Teachers Association
- ILA-muelles International Longshonment Association
- International Brotherhood Electrical Workers (IBEW)
- IAM-International Association of Machinists
- United Auto Workers
- CWA-Communications Workers Association
- UPAGRA-CWA (Union of Journalists, Graphic Arts and Associated Branches)
- OPEIU-Office and Professional Employees International Union
- American Federation of Musicians
- National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)
- American Postal Workers Unions (APWU)
- UNITE-HERE (hoteles y restaurantes)
- IATSE-International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
- Internacional Union of Painters
- USW-United Steel Workers
- Puerto Rican Workers Union (SEIU)
- UGT-SEIU: General Workers Union
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