AFSA Steps In to Help Hurricane Victims

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria all packed a tremendous punch across a swath of our nation, from the Texas Gulf Coast through the lower Southeast and the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Harvey left Houston underwater, nearly wiped out several Texas towns and displaced thousands of people. On its heels, Irma blew through Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Maria added its own punch, leaving utter destruction in its wake on the two U.S. territories. Authorities say it will be months before electricity is restored to these islands and years before a new normal is attained.

AFSA is stepping in to help our members affected by the hurricanes and who are hard at work to try to get schools up and running amid the ruins. Among those affected are AFSA Local 100, St. Croix Educational Administrator’s Association; AFSA Local 101, St. Thomas, St. John Educational Administrators’ Association; and AFSA Local 105, Educadores Puertorriquenos en Accion, Inc.

AFSA is standing by and supporting our members, and to help get the affected schools reopened. Already, each member in Puerto Rico has received cash supplements. Our members in St. Thomas have received 8,000- and 20,000-watt generators. Emergency supplies such as radios, batteries, first aid supplies, cleaning supplies, flashlights and lanterns have been sent to our local in St. Croix.

The AFSA 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund has been created in an effort to collect money to send the necessary supplies. You can donate to the fund at www.AFSAadmin.org/2017-hurricane-relief-fund/.

Domingo Madera, president of AFSA Local 105 in Puerto Rico, attended the General Executive Board meeting on Oct. 13, some three weeks after the storm hit. “The day of Hurricane Maria was the worst day of my 69 years. All day was constant wind and rain. I saw trees fall and roofs blow off homes,” said Madera. “Only 10 percent of the island has power, as of yesterday. Sometimes the power will go on for an hour or two, and then is lost again. There are major problems with food, gas, banks and water. Many homes and families are still without water. The schools are still closed. The goal is to reopen them on October 23.”

Madera visited one school in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, where the river ran so high that the school was flooded with eight feet of water. He described how there are many schools that are flooded and hundreds of students are leaving to go to school in the United States because they do not have food or water. “We live. We have faith. We will pray to God and continue living,” said Madera.

All of labor is united behind efforts to aid those in the storm-stricken areas. After coming together to help those affected on the Gulf Coast and in the southeastern United States, union brothers and sisters from around the nation gathered in Newark, New Jersey, on Oct. 4 for a two-week relief work trip to Puerto Rico. Under the auspices of the AFL-CIO, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and the Machinists, some 300 labor union first responders and union volunteers flew to Puerto Rico to put “boots on the ground” to help with relief and rebuilding efforts.

They made an immediate difference. An Oct. 7 tweet from the AFL-CIO’s Damon Silvers noted that IBEW Local 3 electricians had restored the juice at a San Juan hospital that had gone several weeks without air conditioning, leaving patients and staff sweltering in tropical heat. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been battling the Trump administration seeking proper assistance and relief, told the union group, “I put out the call for help, and who listened? The unions.”

There is one other option potentially available for our members in the storm-affected areas. AFSA members may be eligible for Union Plus benefits, such as $500 Disaster Relief Grants. For more information on this and other possible benefits, and to see whether you qualify, visit www.unionplus.org/hardship-help/disaster-relief-grants.

 

Pictured below: Domingo Madera, president of EPA-AFSA, Local 105 distributing checks, after AFSA provided the members in Puerto Rico with support from the Hurricane Relief Fund

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