First came Harvey. Then Irma. Finally, there was Maria, the strongest hurricane to strike Puerto Rico in almost a century. It made landfall Sept. 21 and residents of Puerto Rico have yet to take full stock of the devastation. But one thing is certain: Our AFSCME sisters and brothers on the island need our help.
That’s why AFSCME is encouraging members to make a contribution to our union’s Fallen Heroes Fund, which provides relief and immediate assistance to those who fall victim to natural disasters and other tragedies.
The day after Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the Council 4 Executive Board voted unanimously to donate $1,000 to the Fallen Heroes Fund.
Council 4 Executive Board member and AFSCME Local 1161 President Richard Rivera, a Skilled Trades Foreman and HVAC Mechanic at the Hartford Housing Authority, urged members to do what they can to help.
“Our brothers and sisters are on the front lines of these disasters. They’re going through hard times. So are their families and friends,” Rivera said. “We need to let them know that Connecticut AFSCME stands with them as they try to put their lives back together.”
Rivera is seeing family hardships all the way around. He has an aunt missing in Puerto Rico. He has an uncle in Houston who lost his home to flood damage caused by Harvey. His aunt is missing in Puerto Rico.
Countless members of Council 4 have family and friends in deep distress.
Maria Cruz of Local 2663 (P-2 Human & Social Services) is a Social Work Supervisor for the state Department of Children and Families in Manchester and also sits on the local union’s Executive Board.
She has a large and extended family in Puerto Rico, including, including an aunt who has run out of insulin to treat her diabetes. Cruz has had no direct communication with her family because the hurricane Maria wiped out the country’s entire power grid, which could take months to be restored.
“The situation is dire,” Cruz said. “Our people are dying a slow death. We need to reach out. People aren’t getting help.”
The storm has toppled cellphone towers and caused landslides and floods that have left communities like the town of Salines, where some of Cruz’s family members live, isolated and in peril.
“There is a desperate need for donations and monetary support,” Cruz noted.
Both Cruz and Rivera are hearing about massive infrastructure and transportation problems. A cousin of Rivera's wife waited 17 hours in line for the government-limited allotment $10 worth of gas.
Thousands of public service workers in Puerto Rico are members of Servidores Públicos Unidos de Puerto Rico (SPUPR)/AFSCME Council 95. They are corrections officers, park and recreation workers, social workers with the Department of Family Services, and more. Council 95 also has a large retiree chapter.
To date, the AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund has raised more than $300,000 nationwide to help members in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and other areas affected by the recent hurricanes.
Click here to make your tax-deductive contribution to the AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund. Prefer to donate by check? Please make your check payable to the “AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund” and mail it c/o the Fallen Heroes Fund to: AFSCME, 1625 L St., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036-5687.