It goes without saying that within the past month, Teamsters Local 901 in Puerto Rico has been through quite the ordeal.
Teamsters from the tristate area made up a significant portion of the membership that went to Puerto Rico to help out with Disaster Relief. New York and New Jersey Teamsters are well prepared for Disaster Relief, having lived through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.
Many Teamsters volunteering in Puerto Rico were called to action because Hurricane Maria wasn’t just a disaster that desperately needed a response, but because it was deeply personal for them.
A lot of Teamsters made sacrifices to go to Puerto Rico to help out those affected by Hurricane Maria. For Local 631 member Marco Cruz, that meant one of his most prized possessions.
The tragedies brought by Hurricane Maria didn’t end after the storm. On Monday and Tuesday, disaster relief workers in Puerto Rico had to deal with a new challenge: mudslides that emerged following new rainfall on the island. No Teamster volunteers were hurt, but the situation illustrates how the forces of nature don’t stop wreaking havoc just because a storm has ended.
Disaster relief involves multiple organizations looking to get hundreds of thousands of people water, food, and other necessities all in a matter of days – an effort that presents a great deal of logistical challenges. Being without electricity, drivable roads or cell phone service on most of the island makes these challenges exponentially worse.
Coordinating with government agencies, other labor unions, the Red Cross, non-profit organizations, and other groups has been central to successful disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico by the Teamsters.
Less than four days after landing in San Juan, the Teamsters Disaster Relief team has already expanded its mission across the island in the weeks following Hurricane Maria’s havoc. Workers are providing relief in Fajardo, Cataño, and even Yabucoa, where the eye of the hurricane first made landfall.