Photo By: 
Crowley

Teamsters Sending Drivers to Puerto Rico

With a backlog of supplies and millions of people waiting, Teamsters head down to provide help

Brian Young's picture
Sep 29, 2017

After Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico, one of the largest rebuilding efforts began. Puerto Ricans are facing months without electricity, some have no potable water and shortages of food are a real possibility. All of this is made worse by the fact that getting supplies to the island has been hampered by the significant damage that was done to the ports and airports. Only within the last few days have supplies been able to start arriving. Now Puerto Rico is facing another challenge, how to get all of these needed supplies to the people.

In New York, Teamsters locals throughout the area have put out the call that their Teamster Brothers and Sisters from Local 901 in Puerto Rico need help. Not only are these 2,000 members of Local 901 working hard to rebuild their lives that were destroyed in the Hurricane, but they are also working night and day to deliver important supplies that are starting to build up in the ports. On top of that, roads may not be passable and many trucks on the Island were damaged. “Tronquistas (Teamsters) are in the streets working since the first day after the hurricane passed and we will continue working to bring peace back to our people,” said Alexis Rodriguez, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 901. With restoration efforts beginning to ramp up, NPR has reported lines of refrigerated shipping containers humming away at the port of San Juan just waiting to be delivered. Puerto Rico’s Teamsters have reached capacity and now need help to save their fellow Puerto Ricans.

Once Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents Teamsters locals in the New York Metro Area as well as Teamsters in Puerto Rico, heard this call for help, they began to ask their members to volunteer their services and head down to San Juan. “This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” said Teamsters International Vice President and Joint Council 16 President George Miranda. “It is imperative that we provide the manpower and financial support necessary to get Puerto Rico on the road to recovery.” For members who could not volunteer to head to Puerto Rico, the Teamsters have asked members to donate to help the recovery effort.

The Teamsters are also joining with other mainland unions to identify skilled workers who can head to the island and help move the shipments of aid and rebuild the island. Other unions like the Association of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have pushed Trump to change his policy on Puerto Rico and temporarily halt the Jones Act, allowing goods from other countries to be delivered which should help to speed up the restoration process. With thousands of members in Puerto Rico, AFSCME has also pushed Trump to stop tweeting about the NFL and provide their members the support they need to rebuild.

The rebuilding effort will take a long time in Puerto Rico, but unions from the mainland have already sprung into action to provide the needed assistance. With their help, goods will start moving to the people who need them and the skilled workforce that is needed to complete a task of this proportion will be able to begin their work.

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