October 30, 2017

SERTs deploy to provide training for workers and communities in devastated areas

In the wake of the natural disasters leaving the southern United States, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in despair, USWTMC Specialized Emergency Response Trainers (SERTs) are deploying to devastated areas and delivering training. The cadre’s goal is to better equip the individuals and communities working to clean-up and rebuild in the aftermath of the disasters with the tools necessary to ensure their health and safety in the process. The SERTs began deployment late September to various regions of Texas.

Week one: Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas

Billy Edington of United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 9-288 and Diana Mejia of Wind of the Spirit were the first two SERTs deployed to Houston, Texas. Read more here.

Week two: Oct. 2-8, 2017 in Houston and Rockport, Texas

Mejia remained in Houston now accompanied by Debra Fisher of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local Union 755. Read more here.

Week three: Oct. 9-15, 2017 in Port Aransas, Rockport and Corpus Christi, Texas

USW Local 1-689 member Marybeth Potter and Local 4-9436 member Mike Swan were the third set of SERTs deployed. Read more here.

Week four: Oct. 16-22, 2017 in Houston, Texas

William Bonilla and Fredy Llanos of Make the Road New York (MRNY) were the next two SERTs deployed to Houston, Texas. Upon arrival, Bonilla and Llanos worked on and prepared mold remediation curriculum for upcoming training sessions scheduled. Read more here.

Week five: Oct. 23-29, 2017 in Houston, Texas

Both Bonilla and Llanos are continuing their outreach in Houston and the surrounding areas this week.

MONDAY The SERTs continued their outreach in the morning, now traveling to the southern area of Houston, connecting with day laborers and delivering 60 more kits. They were also able to go to some of the work areas and directly reach laborers carrying out the removal of debris where they then talked to them about protecting themselves on the job. Twenty-five more kits were handed out.

During the afternoon and on, Bonilla and Llanos prepared more kits with the Fe y Justicia organization and confirmed the PPE needed for the upcoming training.

TUESDAY The SERTs collected 100 more safety kits from the organization to deliver to workers in affected areas on the east side of Houston. They visited five different sections, handed out 80 kits and gathered information from a couple workers who had grown ill due to working in those affected areas.

Bonilla and Llanos ended the day meeting back at the organization with trainers to collaborate on mold curriculum. The next training is set for Oct. 26.

WEDNESDAY Llanos and Bonilla concluded their community outreach, connecting with laborers located on the west side of Houston. They completed coverage of the four points they previously mapped, and were able to visit some corners a second time to further assist with health and safety education.

THURSDAY The SERTs started their day at 7:15 a.m. at the Workers Defense Project site in Houston. A train-the-trainer course for 19 worker-trainers went from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Following this, Llanos and Bonilla traveled to True Love Missionary Baptist Church to meet three members of Fe y Justicia, who were conducting a two-hour mold awareness training, ending their day at 6:30 p.m.

FRIDAY Bonilla and Llanos concluded their outreach as SERTs in Houston with the final scheduled train-the-trainer on mold awareness under their direction. Sixteen participants, who are members of the Fe y Justicia and Workers Defense Project organizations, successfully completed the training and were provided a set of personal protective equipment to use during their upcoming training sessions.

“Tomorrow morning we will return to New York a little exhausted but full of gratitude for the opportunity to come here and do wonderful work,” Bonilla said.

“We are convinced that the USW has positively influenced the lives of several people not just in the classrooms but on the corners where day laborers arrive, seeking jobs,” Bonilla said.

Week six: Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas


Diana Mejia of Wind of the Spirit is back in Houston, Texas this week to continue her work as a SERT, this time joined by Mary Millspaugh of USW Local Union 7-103-A.

MONDAY Mejia and Millspaugh spent their first morning in Houston reviewing resiliency training materials, discussing contacts made by the SERTs previously in the area and looking over the current OSHA training schedule. They conducted follow-up phone calls regarding training schedules, and reached out to others to schedule even more.

The SERTs met with Scot Rudolph of NIEHS in the afternoon to plan which areas to conduct outreach in next and also to talk more about upcoming training opportunities. The team worked with the University of Texas to obtain a location to host training for domestic workers, and also put in a request to obtain personal protective equipment for an upcoming OSHA 10-hour course. At the UT, they picked up NIEHS training booklets in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Finally, they met with Pastor Fidel and Pastora Angela to organize OSHA 10-hour classes for next week in a church. The church is located within a gated trailer community affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Mejia and Millspaugh concluded their day conducting more follow-up phone calls and developing flyers for the upcoming OSHA 10-hour courses being offered next week.

TUESDAY Mejia and Millspaugh spent the morning reaching out to day laborers in Katy, Texas, a city just west of Houston. They handed out NIEHS booklets on how to protect themselves while cleaning up after a natural disaster, speaking directly with 59 workers in Spanish and 10 in English. They inquired about providing PPE training outside of a supermarket, while also setting up another meeting for resiliency training opportunities at a local church.

The SERTs spent the afternoon meeting with members of the Fe y Justicia organization, sharing with them a tentative list of upcoming training sessions. The group confirmed resiliency training on Wednesday, Nov. 8.

Concluding their day, the SERTs went to Cristo Vivo Church to follow-up on training scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4. The training will reach 35 Spanish-speaking workers, and 13 English-speaking workers. Finally, Mejia and Millspaugh traveled to Remanente Church to deliver flyers for upcoming classes.

Posted In: AFLCIO, CWA, Environment, Health and Safety, Labor Institute, Mazzocchi, NDLON, USW

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