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Faith Groups Convene on Capitol Hill Urging Aid For Hurricane Victims

Urge Increased Aid for Families in Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

WASHINGTON – The National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) & PICO National Network today united with Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL), Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Congressman José Serrano (D-NY), Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for a briefing on hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Capitol Hill briefing included testimony from impacted people who discussed the need for additional short-term relief to help families on the islands, many of whom still lack electricity.

“As Latino evangelicals living on the mainland and as a coalition that has been actively responding with compassion to the victims of natural disasters,” said the Rev.

clockwise, from right: Alicia Barnes, Former Commissioner, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; The Honorable Luis Gutierrez (D-IL); Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Denise Collazo, chief of staff, PICO National Network; The Honorable José A. Santiago Rivera, Mayor of Comerío, Puerto Rico; and Nelly Esquilín Perez, Resident, Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Evangelical Coalition. “The National Latino Evangelical Coalition is very concerned that our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands receive on-going, timely and equitable support and treatment commensurate with the devastation they have faced. Our faith compels us to speak up with the millions of our sisters and brothers.”

Today faith leaders urged Congress to:

Cancel the Debt. Puerto Rico’s debt stands in the way of recovery from hurricanes and austerity Even before the storm hit the island was already struggling to find a way to re-finance a crippling $74 billion in debt and over $50 billion in unfunded pensions. Now the territory is faced with a massive burden of hurricane damage repair. It’s hard to see how Puerto Rico can rebuild and repair billions of dollars’ worth of damage and also meet its obligations to creditors.

Enact a Marshall Plan: Support a bill that would fully fund the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, rebuild the islands’ infrastructure – including funding for a new and resilient energy grid – provide full funding parity for federal health care programs on the Island, and enact economic tools so that Puerto Rico’s private sector can once again flourish. There is no sustainable solution to Puerto Rico’s financial and debt crises without economic growth in Puerto Rico.

Modernize the Energy and Electrical Grid: Refrain from spending federal taxpayer dollars on rebuilding an old energy grid that is fragile and subject to collapse with every new storm. They should build a new electricity system that is decentralized, one that maximizes the plentiful sun and wind available in the Island.

End the Jones Act: Urge President Trump to renew and expand the administration’s waiver of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico for at least 5 years. There are several bipartisan bills regarding the Jones Act and its harmful application to Puerto Rico. The costs of these onerous and protectionist shipping laws make consumer prices unnecessarily more expensive and could harm relief efforts from other countries. Economists estimate that the yearly costs to the Puerto Rican economy stemming from the Jones Act ranges from $500 million to $1 billion.

“In organizing this event, we want to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Denise Collazo, chief of staff for PICO National Network. “While there is tremendous need, there is also tremendous opportunity. Congress must act now to finance rebuilding efforts, ease pressures on the Commonwealth’s budget, and provide resources for displaced residents in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands residents.”

“People of faith cannot look away as millions of U.S. citizens continue to suffer following hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” said Denise Collazo, chief of staff for PICO National Network. “The only thing separating the gulf of compassion that Texans experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the concern that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced is skin color and distance; our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are people of color who reside miles from the mainland. But their devastation is our devastation and we will not allow skin color or distance to cause us, or our elected leaders, to forget that God’s people are in need of immediate help. In hosting this briefing, we are urging Congressional relief now.”

Watch the event in full on our Facebook page by clicking here or watch below.

NH Company Helps Bring Power To Puerto Rico

ReVision Energy Partners with Amicus Solar Cooperative and Amurtel to Bring Solar Outreach Systems to Puerto Rico

BRENTWOOD, NH: Local solar installer ReVision Energy is partnering with Amicus Solar Cooperative, a nationwide purchasing cooperative of solar energy companies, and Amurtel, a non-profit working in disaster relief, to build Solar Outreach Systems (SOS) to bring dozens of desperately needed portable solar energy systems to power storm-ravaged areas in Puerto Rico.

Millions of Americans living in Puerto Rico (Boriqueñas) remain without power due to Hurricane Maria, many still without passable roads, access to clean drinking water, in need of basic supplies, and unable to receive the medical care they would otherwise have with functional electricity.

“We have already secured the solar panels that will enable us to build up to 100 portable emergency power units that will power communications systems, computers, laptops, cell phones and lighting for the hardest hit areas,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder of ReVision Energy and the company’s volunteer coordinator with Amicus and Amurtel. ReVision Energy is a founding member of Amicus Solar. ReVision Energy’s N. Andover, MA warehouse will be used as a staging area to begin construction on the first portable solar power units.

Located close to the equator where there is a powerful solar resource, Puerto Rico is an ideal geography for harnessing solar energy, but with so few solar energy systems in place right now, not many businesses or homes are able to take advantage of this abundant renewable energy. Having to depend on what’s left of the island’s power grid means that many Puerto Rican communities could be without power for up to a year. The Solar Outreach Systems, which are portable community-based communication and emergency power hubs, will immediately assist on-the-ground relief efforts.

The SOS units will be deployed by the Aireko Foundation, an offshoot of Aireko Energy Solutions, which is a Puerto Rico-based member of Amicus.  These units will be loaned to the communities for the duration of their need and then be redeployed to other disaster areas as needs and events dictate.  “The aftermath of Hurricane Maria has been as difficult and often even harder than the path of the storm itself, especially for those communities in the interior of the island.  After more than a month, reestablishment of electric power for those communities is still unknown, and the quality of water is not the best – for those communities that are lucky enough to have this service, which are very few.  Sadly, those communities are far from returning to their normal lives,” said Hector Rivera Russe of Aireko Energy Solutions. “I’m deeply touched by how my Amicus partners, alongside Amurtel, have jumped without hesitation, to putting their time, resources and effort to give relief to my people in Puerto Rico.  I will always be thankful to them.”

This Amicus-Amurtel SOS partnership is actively fundraising for the Power on Puerto Rico project to design, build, and deploy 10 initial portable, off grid solar systems for remote community centers where the public can charge cell phones, rechargeable lights, radios, and other low load, high value items that will offer immediate relief to disaster victims. A goal of 100 units will be deployed through this effort. Tax deductible donations of materials, services and cash contributions are being coordinated through http://www.amurtel.org/get-involved/donate/

AMURTEL is an international volunteer organization founded in 1975 that works to help improve the quality of life for people experiencing chronic poverty or acute stress from environmental, financial, or political distress. We encourage and enable individuals and communities to harness their own resources for securing the basic necessities of life and for gaining greater economic sustainability and social and spiritual fulfillment. It is the goal of Amurtel to assist communities in their recovery and development while honoring their customs, language, and religious beliefs. www.amurtel.org

Founded in 2011, AMICUS SOLAR COOPERATIVE, is the first purchasing cooperative in the U.S. solar industry. As a member-owned company, we share best practices with each other and pool our purchasing power to obtain lower pricing on both products and services allowing us to deliver better value to our customers. AMICUS is made up of 43 member-owners, each operating under their own brand with over 60 office/service locations in 29 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Amicus is equally owned and democratically governed by its membership of independent solar photovoltaic (PV) installation companies. More information can be found at www.amicussolar.com.

For more information contact: Phil Coupe, phil@revisionenergy.com or 207-232-6595. Please visit our webpage and Facebook page for updates as the project progresses.

REVISION ENERGY is certified B-Corp and employee-owned company that specializes in the design, installation and service of solar energy systems, battery storage, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, heat pumps and LED lighting. Our mission is to transition northern New England from a fossil fuel based economy to a sustainable, renewable energy based economy. In 2017 ReVision Energy was named the #1 Rooftop Solar Installer in New England by Solar Power Industry Magazine based on the company’s reputation for exceptional customer service and unrivaled technical competence gained through the course of more than 7,000 clean energy systems placed in service since 2003.

300 Union Members Head To Puerto Rico To Assist In Recovery Efforts

United ALPA Pilots Prior tl Flight to Puerto Rico
Image from ALPA

Unions and United Airlines Come Together to Fly More than 300 First Responders and Skilled Volunteers to Puerto Rico

35,000 pounds of relief supplies also delivered on flight
Evacuees to fill seats on return flight to Newark, New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 4, 2017 – Today, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) 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. 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, the flight was operated by ALPA- and AFA-CWA-represented United Airlines pilots and flight attendants volunteering their time. IAM-represented United ramp employees also will support the flight on the ground in Newark and San Juan.

The flight departed Newark Liberty International Airport at 11 a.m. ET and will arrive at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport at approximately 2:45 p.m. ET. The flight also is transporting more than 35,000 pounds of such emergency relief supplies 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.

“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. 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.”

“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. 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.”


“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need help and this is a race against time,” said Captain Todd Insler, Chairman, ALPA United Airlines. “The ALPA pilots of United Airlines are honored to fly these skilled workers and medical professionals to San Juan today, and will continue to support the humanitarian efforts going forward. We applaud these brave volunteers who are dedicating their time, selflessly leaving their homes and families, and answering the call to help. The strength of the unions represented on this flight comes from workers joining together to help one another. Likewise, the strength of this joint relief effort comes from all of us—labor, management and government—standing together to help our fellow citizens in their time of need.”

“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.

While in Puerto Rico, OPEIU nurse members Kris Teed, RN , Elizabeth Moreno, RN, and Kyra Keusch, RN, will coordinate with the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO and the City of San Juan on various efforts.

“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 Munoz, 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. 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.”

 

Unions throughout America have continued to offer supplies and other volunteer efforts in addition to today’s flight. Members on today’s flight are represented by 20 unions from 17 states.

40,000 Educators In Puerto Rico Vote To Join The American Federation of Teachers

AMPR and AFT Affiliate to Combat Austerity and Fight for Public Education and Economic Opportunity for the People of Puerto Rico

‘Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha’ – Trial Affiliation Agreement Will Boost Resources in Fight to Rebuild the Island’s Economy

SAN JUAN— Working people around the world understand they must join together to fight back against austerity politics that is bankrupting cities, states, provinces, and countries across the globe.

Right now, the Puerto Rican people are facing down a $70 billion debt crisis that has gutted the economy and wrought a devastating impact on public education, leading to 60,000 fewer students in the school system and tens of thousands of people leaving the island. The crisis has caused the closure of 164 neighborhood public schools and the stripping of benefits and retirement security from teachers and public employees. Teacher salaries in Puerto Rico have been stagnant, as hedge funds and an unelected control board have tried, and failed, to solve the crisis on their backs and the backs of the most vulnerable.

Today, Puerto Rican educators voted to join forces with one of the most powerful education unions in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers.

The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the union representing more than 40,000 Puerto Rican educators, AMPR-Local Sindical, and the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers signed a historic affiliation agreement today that will strengthen their joint fight against austerity and privatization and for public education and economic opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico.

AMPR President Aida Diaz said: “Teachers are teachers no matter where they work, and we should be treated as professionals and respected by the government and the public as a vital and necessary resource. Every country wants to improve its economic and social situation, but in Puerto Rico teachers haven’t been treated fairly. For years we have been left behind and denied Social Security, as other professionals have seen improvements to their working conditions, salaries and benefits. With the AFT, we can work hand in hand to improve our working conditions and reclaim all that has been denied to us. In the end, the education system will only improve when teachers are treated as the professionals we are.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “An attack on teachers anywhere is an attack on teachers everywhere. AMPR has been battling against austerity and privatization in Puerto Rico and the everyday consequences for the island’s people. With this affiliation, the 1.6 million members of the AFT join in that fight.

“The people of Puerto Rico didn’t cause this crisis, but they’re forced to shoulder most of the burden because of the actions of hedge funders and irresponsible government deals. The toll has been severe—nearly 60 percent of Puerto Rican children now live in poverty, a rate three times as high as the mainland.

“Our shared values—a strong and equitable economy, great public schools, good healthcare, a strong and vibrant democracy, and the elimination of hate and bigotry—drove us to form this partnership, and we will harness those values to mobilize our members to win.”

Grichelle Toledo, Secretary-General of AMPR-Local Sindical, said: “We believe that this is a great opportunity to join our voices with the voices of 1.6 million AFT members. Both active teachers and retirees will benefit from this affiliation, and we will have a stronger voice in education and politics on the mainland and in Puerto Rico.”

Evelyn DeJesus, a vice president of the AFT’s New York City affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, said: “I’m a Nuyorican, born in New York with Puerto Rican heritage and roots. For me, this is a very emotional day, and I am honored and excited to be here in this moment in time. We’re here to support and give voice to the children and educators of Puerto Rico. I have been proud to work with AMPR on professional development and training, and we are committed to this partnership for the next three years.”

Prior to the agreement, the AFT and AMPR worked together for months to oppose the PROMESA control board’s attacks on public education and to expose the role of hedge funds in the crisis. Joint trainings have been held to improve communications and member engagement. Separately, the AFT has been assisting AMPR with Puerto Rico bankruptcy issues.

AMPR will be chartered as a state federation of the AFT, with AMPR-Local Sindical, the AMPR’s collective bargaining agent, chartered as an AFT local. The trial affiliation agreement is for three years.

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