At a park in the Bahama Village neighborhood of Key West, the fact that it’s 90 degrees and humid isn’t discouraging Teamster members and their community partners from unloading a packed freight truck. Time is of the essence, and nobody can wait for the sun to go down.
“When people see a trailer coming in here, you see a look of surprise and pure happiness on people’s faces,” said Stefan McLane, a member of Local 769 in Miami who drove down the truck from Port Everglades. “We are happy to have such a great relationship with these communities, so we don’t mind sharing. Teamsters are hardworking and grateful people. Whatever we can do when the times call for it, let’s go out and do it, because that’s what being a Teamster is all about—helping each other out, building each other up, and being stronger together.”
The bustle of activity seems of out of place in the otherwise placid atmosphere of the South Florida island chain following Hurricane Irma. While it seems oddly quiet, there are vulnerable people on Key West, and they are in desperate need of supplies.
Zack McCart is a Local 769 Shop Steward at UPS, and a Key West resident. The Florida Keys were evacuated before the hurricane hit, and he’s been taking a lead on helping his coworkers re-adjust to life on the island since they’ve returned.
“When we came back, it was just pure devastation,” McCart said. “Some houses just weren’t there anymore. There were trailers blown over, trees blown over, boats blown over, it was crazy. This is the worst it’s been in a long time.”
David Renshaw, Business Agent for Local 769, led a team of volunteers in a housing complex a few blocks from the park. They canvassed the apartments, delivering hot meals, water, and toiletries to the elderly residents.
“The Keys will rebound and rebuild, but right now we’re looking to give people here a quick stepping stone to be headed in the right direction,” Renshaw said. “We’ve had all sorts of people come out to assist, even some of retirees are out here delivering these supplies. I know that this will only bring people closer together with the continued involvement of our labor union.”
John Bellera has been a Key West resident for over 30 years, and he was thrilled that the Teamsters were in his community handing out food, water, and other items at a time when he otherwise would be unable to get them.
“All the local greenery is gone, and things here look like the dark side of the moon now, but the people here are wonderful,” Bellera said. “I was a union member before I retired, and they took care of me. They paid for my kids to go to the doctor, they paid for us to go to the dentist, and they paid for us when we got sick. It’s the best thing that ever happened to this country.”