Relief in Solidarity —
Of Killer Storm
UE Local 124 Vice Pres. Bob Holbert
and young Tyler Hughes load food, clothing and personal items collected by
union members in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley on a truck bound for
eastern North Carolina. Aid for flood victims has come from as far away as
Iowa, where UE Local 893 members attending their local’s convention
You Can Help
and Community Aid and Relief Project, a coalition of labor,
faith-based and community organizations, has set up medical
screenings, shelters, food distribution centers and field
outreach teams — and much more needs to be done. At the
same time, the coalition is working to ensure that working people's
needs are not overlooked by public and private bureaucracies
and that communities have a voice in shaping the direction of
their recovery agenda.
150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, is taking a
leading role in this unique labor-community coalition.
project urgently needs your support! Tax-deductible contributions
can be made to Workers and Community Aid and Relief Project, P.O.
Box 1531, Durham, NC 27702.
Southern solidarity: Loading a truck
with supplies for North Carolina’s flood victims are these union activists
and supporters in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. From left Gerald Follett,
Mary Lawson with her grandson Tyler Hughes, Local 124 Pres. Maken Dodge,
Mary Collins (daughter of Mary Lawson), Field Org. George Waksmunski and
Local 124 Vice Pres. Bob Holbert.
Their homes wiped out by the rampaging flood waters released
by Hurricane Floyd, the extended Williams family in Princeville, N.C.
is clinging to stability in the one family dwelling that survived. The
presence of 28 people in a small house with one bathroom is a mere annoyance
compared to the hardship of households broken and crushed by wind and water
and memories buried under polluted muck.
Visiting members of the UE Local 150 executive board were
deeply moved by the experience of the Williams and other families. They
quickly took up a collection. This is for Sunday dinner, explained Local Rec.
Sec. Novella Townsend in handing over the fistful of bills to the
The first meeting of the Local 150 executive board since the
union’s historic first constitutional convention took place in Rocky Mount
in flood-ravaged Edgecombe County Oct. 9 (See: North
Carolina Public Service Workers Build their Union). Eight of the 13
board members stayed an extra day to visit flood survivors and view the
The unprecedented destruction Hurricane Floyd brought to
eastern North Carolina is inspiring an unprecedented response, as a coalition
of labor, faith-based and community organizations organizes relief for
residents — and organizes the storm victims themselves.
With many members and their families devastated by the killer
storm, the North Carolina Public Service Workers’ Union, UE Local 150, is
taking a leading role in this unique labor-community relief effort. (The
statewide UE local’s ranks include employees of the University of North
Carolina system, the Eastern Carolina School for the Deaf and Durham municipal
Local 150 chapters are setting up boxes for the collection of
food and clothing as part of the relief effort.
Hurricane Floyd is blamed for close to 50 deaths. Some 7,700
homes were damaged and 4,800 destroyed. Some 2,800 people were recently
reported living in shelters, with hundreds of them now moving into campers
provided by federal authorities.
Jobs were washed out as flood waters wrecked businesses and
paychecks interrupted as workers were left stranded in shelters, roads to work
flooded and cars ruined. Thousands of children have been out of school for
days. Local 150 members in Wilson, Greenville and Wilmington were among those
whose homes were extensively damaged or destroyed. Many UE members couldn’t
work because flood waters blocked the roads.
A million turkeys and chickens and more than half a million
hogs drowned in the flood, a disaster for working farmers and a public health
catastrophe Raw sewerage, manure and chemical waste also contaminated water
supplies. Many Carolinians were without electricity for days.
Already existing problems for working people — less than
living wages, the lack of access to affordable health care and the lack of
decent affordable housing, for example — have been worsened by the storm’s
devastation. All of the hospitals in devastated Edgecombe, Pitt, Green and
Lenoir Counties have been privatized, leaving serious questions of access to
care. Speculators, hoping to pick up property on the cheap from vulnerable
people, are rooting through hurricane-ravaged areas. For the mostly
African-American residents of the hardest hit counties, Floyd brought no
relief from the racism of public and private institutions.
‘JUSTICE, NOT CHARITY’
"There’s a lot of hardship out there," comments UE
Field Org. Saladin Muhammed, coordinator of the Workers &
Communities Aid & Relief Project. "People need to be organized."
The Relief Project is organizing to provide direct relief and
to ensure that working people’s needs are not overlooked by public and
private bureaucracies. The coalition seeks to help communities help themselves
in shaping the direction of their recovery agenda. "The goal is relief
with dignity, social justice not charity," Muhammed said.
The project has set up medical screening, shelters, food
distribution centers and field outreach teams.
A special focus of the coalition is support for the town of
Princeville. Formed by freed slaves immediately following the Civil War, this
historic town was totally devastated by the hurricane.
UE News Articles
About UE Local 150
• Strong and Bold: North Carolina
Public Service Workers Build Their Union
• For Fairness, Democracy and
Power: Local 150's First Constitutional Convention
• Local 150 Demands Justice on UNC Campuses
• Durham, NC City Workers Affiliate with UE
• NC School Workers Fight Discrimination
• Organizing Blitz Boosts UE Membership in North Carolina
• UE Local 150 to Hold First Convention
UE News - 10/99
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