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Unions set up funds, volunteer to help members affected by Irma and Harvey

Stephon Johnson | 9/14/2017, 4:11 p.m.
With Hurricanes Irma and Harvey wreaking havoc in the America’s south and southeast regions, unions have come to the forefront ...
Hurricane Irma batters Miami, Florida with heavy winds on September 10, 2017. CNN photo

With Hurricanes Irma and Harvey wreaking havoc in the America’s south and southeast regions, unions have come to the forefront to contribute to the effort in their own ways.

The United Steelworkers have set up a fund to help members who’ve been affected by the storms’ respective wraths.

“While we’re watching the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma from around the nation, many of our members are experiencing the catastrophe firsthand,” read a statement from the webpage set up for donations. “Thousands live and work in the direct path of the hurricanes. From early reports, we know that USW members have lost homes, vehicles and more. In some places, entire neighborhoods are underwater. Some of our members who are impacted themselves are fighting through waters to help rescue neighbors in need.”

With donations set up in increments of $15, $25, $50, $100 and other, the unions want to aid members helping out with relief efforts who’ve had their own homes destroyed and lives disrupted.

“In the past, our union has been able to offer some assistance through the Steelworkers Charitable Fund at times like this,” read the USW’s statement. “Whether it was Hurricanes Katrina or Ike along the Gulf Coast or devastating tornadoes in the Midwest, when our members have suffered, we’ve been there.”

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East followed in the USW’s footsteps in setting up Harvey and Irma disaster relief funds linked to a PayPal account to donate on their webpage. The Disaster Relief Fund’s webpage also made note of climate change and the belief that the last two hurricanes in the United States were “unnatural disasters.”

“Rising sea levels contributed to Harvey’s enormous impact,” read 1199’s statement. “Oceans have risen more than a foot since 1960 on the Texas coast and that’s one more foot of storm surge. Warmer oceans lead to more rain and stronger storms. A hotter ocean makes rapid intensification more likely. The Trump administration’s deregulating of toxic pollution leaves vulnerable communities under siege near huge refineries.”

Members of National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United noted that more than 1,500 RNs from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada signed up to volunteer as needed for disaster relief. Union members of one hospital in Irma’s direct path hustled to get more than 100 mattresses donated to staff who worked during the storm.

The Florida chapter of the NNOC represents 8,000 RNs in 15 hospitals across the state.

“We have been in touch with all the hospitals to discuss what plans they have in place for staffing, for housing of RNs who will be working throughout the storm and for shelter they will provide for their RNs and possibly family members of RNs,” stated Libby Devlin, the Tampa-based NNOC’s southern director.