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Relief in Solidarity
Unions, Communities
Meet Challenge
Of Killer Storm

Relief in Solidarity ...
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 raised funds.

How You Can Help

The Workers 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.

UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, is taking a leading role in this unique labor-community coalition.

This 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.

Local 124 puts together a relief shipment ...
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 Williams matriarch.

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 damage.

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 workers.)

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.


"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

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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