The AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Air Line Pilots Association, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and United Airlines teamed up to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers — including nurses, doctors, electricians, engineers, carpenters and truck drivers — to Puerto Rico to help with relief and rebuilding efforts.
The flight was one way to respond to the urgent need to get highly skilled workers to Puerto Rico to help people seeking medical and humanitarian assistance as well as to help with the rebuilding effort, the organizations said.
“The working families of Puerto Rico are our brothers and sisters. And this incredible partnership will bring skilled workers to the front lines to deliver supplies, care for victims and rebuild Puerto Rico,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
“Our movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. But we are even better when we find common ground and partner with business and industry on solutions to lift up our communities,” he said.
“This endeavor is entirely about working people helping working people in every way possible. In times of great tragedy, our country comes together, and we are committed to doing our part to assist the people of Puerto Rico,” Trumka added.
While in Puerto Rico, workers will coordinate with the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor and the city of San Juan on various efforts, including helping clear road blockages, care for hospital patients, deliver emergency supplies, and restore power and communications.
United Airlines volunteered a 777-300, one of the largest and newest aircraft in its fleet, to airlift this humanitarian relief team to San Juan. In addition to the hundreds of highly skilled workers assembled by the AFL-CIO, ALPA- and AFA-CWA-represented United Airlines pilots and flight attendants volunteering their time operated the flight.
“When our union sisters and brothers see a need in our national or international community, we don’t ask if we should act, we ask how,” said AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson.
“Today is the result of our collective strength, compassion and commitment to action. I am proud United responded to the call to carry a union of relief workers among America’s working families to care for our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico,” Nelson said.
“We are united in lifting up our fellow Americans. It is an honor to serve on the volunteer crew of flight attendants and pilots transporting skilled relief workers and returning to New York with hundreds needing safe passage out of Puerto Rico,” she said.
IAM-represented United ramp employees also will support the flight on the ground in Newark and San Juan.
“This flight carries not only much-needed supplies and skilled union labor, but also the love and support of more than 33,000 IAM members at United who will continue helping the people of Puerto Rico recover,” said IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja.
The flight was slated to arrive arrive at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport at about 3 p.m. The flight also is transporting more than 35,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies such as food, water and essential equipment. The airline has operated more than a dozen flights to and from Puerto Rico, carrying nearly 740,000 pounds of relief-related cargo and more than 1,300 evacuees.
The United aircraft is returning to Newark this evening with evacuees from Puerto Rico. These passengers are being provided complimentary seats as part of United’s ongoing humanitarian relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
“When our communities call out for help, we can come together and solve the biggest challenges by summoning the best of ourselves. We’ve answered this call many times over the past couple months, and Puerto Rico is no exception,” said Oscar Muñoz, CEO of United Airlines.
“This flight embodies how working Americans, union leaders and business can unite with a shared sense of purpose to make a life-changing difference at this critical moment,” Muñoz said. “We are deeply grateful to all of the first responders, highly skilled professionals and United employees who are going above and beyond to come to the aid of Puerto Rico.”