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Florida Workers Rally to Provide Hurricane Relief

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Long after the hurricanes have passed, hard work and hazards remain. Members of Florida's labor unions are pitching in to help. (Florida AFL-CIO)
Long after the hurricanes have passed, hard work and hazards remain. Members of Florida's labor unions are pitching in to help. (Florida AFL-CIO)
 By Trimmel Gomes - Producer, Contact
September 28, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Union workers from across the southern United States have collected basic essentials, including food and clothing, and are traveling throughout South Florida to share them in places affected by Hurricane Irma.

The recovery process has slowed a bit as major disaster relief is shifted from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey to survivors of Irma and now, Maria.

Kyle Gawroriski, a field representative with the West Central Florida AFL-CIO, says it's important to lend a hand, especially when things are calm.

"I think a lot of times, you know, you get your power back on and you forget that people are still suffering from the hurricane,” he points out. “You're OK, but there's a lot of people down there that were hit a lot harder than the rest of the state was. I'm getting calls every day from people who, one woman said, 'It rains in the living room now.'”

More than 13 million Floridians were left without power in the first day after Hurricane Irma. Members of many of the state's trade unions are participating in the rebuilding efforts.

Jim Junecko, business agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers, is on a team distributing supplies. He says for him, it's as simple as helping a neighbor in need.

"We're regular working people, so we feel that, you know, in a time like this, it's regular people who you can count on, and who come together to help," he states.

Officials at the Florida Division of Emergency Management say Irma is responsible for 54 deaths.

Maria Gonzalez, office manager at Sheet Metal Workers' Local 15, calls the outpouring of support "remarkable."

"To me, just going through the stress of what hurricanes can do and being without power and hearing how so many people are suffering to the extent that they are losing their lives, just knowing that we can be a part of helping them get back on their feet, it's priceless," she states.

The unions say they will continue to gather and deliver food, water and other necessities at least through next month, or however long they see the need.


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