September 12, 2005
Washington – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and its members continue to help Katrina victims and their families.
UFCW members affected are calling the UFCW Katrina Relief Fund hot line at (866) 820-6141.
So far, UFCW raised or received pledges nearing $250,000 for hurricane victims from generous workers and organizations. UFCW itself has contributed $100,000, and one of its constituency groups – United Latinos of UFCW – contributed another $50,000. Union representatives and volunteers are helping connect workers with their families. They are helping provide groceries and shelter for victims in several states. They are also helping workers to find other types of assistance, as well as to help people relocate and find new jobs.
UFCW has many affected members. In Louisiana alone, almost half of UFCW’s 5,300 members lived in the most affected areas. UFCW volunteers are helping everybody, but concentrating on finding and helping these 2,500 members.
The UFCW members who experienced the worse impact from the hurricane are those employed by Domino Sugar Co. in Chalmette, LA, where hundreds were trapped inside the factory by flood waters for nearly one week, and at least 40 have lost their homes and possessions. Domino Sugar Company has agreed to continue paying wages and benefits for these workers while the plant is shut down.
Other UFCW members affected by the hurricane include those working at poultry processor Sanderson Farms, at an oil refinery, at barber shops, and at a Sara Lee plant in Mississippi.
“People are being grateful for the help and some are saying that no one was helping them until UFCW’s yellow t-shirts showed up,” said UFCW Region 5 International Vice President Alvin Vincent. “For the most part, victims are also upset at the federal government for not fixing the levees outside New Orleans and for lack of food.”
UFCW International President Joe Hansen oversaw the creation of the relief fund last Saturday, Sept. 3, and urged workers to contribute to it. “Unlike a strike situation, where hardship develops over time, many of our members barely escaped Katrina’s destruction with nothing but the clothes on their backs.”
UFCW Local 455 purchased a truckload full of groceries from Associated Grocers Warehouse and with the help of several UFCW leaders and members, distributed the food to Sanderson Farms’ workers, who had been affected by the storm.
UFCW Region 5’s Al Vincent: “”The Hotline traffic is starting to pick up and the word of mouth member-to-member system, while slow, has helped us find some families in great need.”” He added, “Also, we have started to go to the major staging areas (Houston, Dallas) to see if we can post ‘UFCW Member Relief’ information throughout the arenas.”
“”Most victims are staying in homes in groups ranging from five to 24 people,” said Vincent. “In one case, there is a family of 10 staying at a campground in Minden, Louisiana. In all cases, reunited families are reluctant to be slip apart.”
In addition to the UFCW, other unions of the recently formed Change to Win Coalition have implemented Katrina-victim relief programs of their own and in collaboration with other unions.