September 11, 2001, was a day like no other in our nation’s history, but Teamsters reacted with characteristic solidarity. The union’s leadership and rank-and-file members stepped up and assisted with the rescue, recovery, cleanup and rebuilding.
Today, the Freedom Tower stands where the World Trade Center once stood, and Teamsters were as essential to building it as they were in the cleanup and recovery efforts immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.
“Today, Teamsters nationwide remember the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. Not just those who died in the attack but those who gave their health, and even their lives, in the rescue, recovery and cleanup,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “I’ll never forget the role our great union played during such a difficult time in our nation’s history.”
The Teamster response to the Sept. 11 attacks was enormous and encompassed dozens of locals across multiple states.
Members of Local 807 in Long Island City, N.Y. were on hand to assist in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in New York City. Teamsters were among the first in the World Trade Center buildings to direct the confused and frightened people into the street and out of harm’s way. Local 237 volunteered on bucket brigades to help dig out debris. Volunteers from Local 707 in Hempstead, N.Y. transported supplies and food from Long Island. Locals across the country raised money and emergency supplies, coordinated blood donations and more. Javitz Center Teamsters with Local 807 in Long Island City, N.Y. volunteered at a central supply center. Local 639 in Washington, D.C. drove refrigeration trucks to transport remains from the Pentagon to an Army post. Local 282 had hundreds of drivers working in 12-hour shifts removing tons of debris from the fallen towers, and dozens more locals participated in various ways.
Though today is the 18th anniversary of 9/11, there are still unsettled issues regarding those who worked in rescue, recovery and cleanup, and the Teamsters Union is still standing up for workers affected by attacks.
More than 300 sanitation Teamsters with Local 831 in New York City worked at Ground Zero. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, these Teamsters got right to work. They cleared a path through debris to make way for emergency vehicles, cleared out food from downtown cafeterias and sorted through debris at Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island.
According to a story in the New York Times, that work “exposed them to toxic dust and smoke that have been linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and potentially cancer. But unlike police officers and firefighters, if those city workers died of illnesses related to Sept. 11 after they retired, their survivors were not eligible for health insurance benefits.”
The story outlines how that affect some people: “Under current law, the families of corrections officers and sanitation workers are only eligible to receive city health benefits if their loved one dies of a Sept. 11-related illness while they are on active duty. The families of other civilian employees such as engineers, auto mechanics and traffic agents whose deaths are related to a Sept. 11 illness cannot currently receive city health benefits,” according to the New York Times.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is introducing a measure that would make the families of 5,000 city employees eligible to get those benefits, and the Teamsters Union is fully behind the plan.