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Local union supports workers as hurricane recovery continues

30 Oct, 2017

It’s been over one month since Hurricane Harvey first made landfall in Texas, and while Corpus Christi and our neighboring towns faced devastation, union members joined hands and went to work. National media captured the heroic feats of our first responders, medical professionals and others who did everything humanly possible to hold our infrastructure together. As president of the local communication workers union, CWA Local 6137, and the Coastal Bend Labor Council, I was especially moved by the stories of those who worked around the clock — even through the storm — to secure and repair our electric and communications systems.

Electricians like Brent Falwell, Kevin Martinez, and Stuart Diegel left their families at home while they worked all day leading up to the hurricane on back-up power plans for the hospital. In the evening, they moved outside, standing guard all through the storm, to monitor power poles that feed electricity to the hospital. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them to leave their families behind to weather the hurricane while they went out to do their jobs for the greater good of the patients in the hospital.

And when the winds died down, union members did not let up, even as they needed relief of their own. We may be a month out from when Harvey hit, but there is still so much more that needs to be done before working families in the Corpus Christi area can truly recover. Union members like Richard Rock volunteered to help temporarily restore water to a Rockport resident even as he had lived without power in his own home for weeks. This is the very belief that drives the labor movement: We are all in this together.

It has been inspiring to see working people come together throughout this crisis to help one another with getting back into our homes, supplying much needed toiletries and cleaning supplies, and providing support to help each other as we begin our recovery efforts. It was a priority of the Central Labor Council to guarantee our members could report to work with everything they needed to do their jobs safely. We made sure people had things like steel toe boots and other equipment that may have been lost in the storm. After all, union members are key to the rebuilding process. It will be working women and men whose hands put our communities back together.

On the statewide and national levels, the labor movement is also organizing to help Texas working families. The Texas AFL-CIO took immediate leadership in administering the Texas Workers Relief Fund. They've united the labor movement across the country to centralize many of our donations and resources in this fund so that union members on the ground can decide how to put the money to the best possible use. On the national level, the AFL-CIO pledged to raise at least $5 million in aid for displaced Texas families and jump-started that goal with a $100,000 donation to the Texas Workers Relief Fund. We will continue to work together to make sure our effort to rebuild communities hit by Harvey is long-term and meaningful for all working people.

At their best, unions are about solidarity — working people organizing to take care of other working people. When Hurricane Harvey turned lives upside-down, working Texans assumed responsibility for one another. Union values like these are serving us all as we walk the path of recovery together.

Kristie Veit is the president of CWA Local 6137 which represents Telecom (AT&T) workers and the president of the Coastal Bend Central Labor Council which represents union families in the greater Corpus Christi area.

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