The New York State Laborers' Union represents over 40,000 members employed in the construction industry and other fields throughout the state.
Our members are organized into more than 36 local unions and 5 district councils. We are a proud affiliate of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA).
NYSliuna In Times of Need
The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in January has inspired the handson generosity of the Laborers - skilled workers turning their human concern into helpful actions.
As was reported worldwide, this devastating earthquakemeasured 7.0 on the Richter scale and struck just 16 miles west of Portau- Prince, Haiti’s capital city. It killed many thousands of people and destroyed the homes of millions. Essentially leveling the city, it drove survivors into badly equipped camps, destroyed already inadequate infrastructure and caused enormous suffering through the lack of shelter, food, water and medical care.
Members of Laborers Local Union 79 immediately became involved in providing relief and resources. Joining with volunteers and governments from around the world that are pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel, these generous Laborers have responded to Haiti’s appeals for humanitarian aid.
Charles Rynkiewicz and John Wund of Local 79 have been working with H.E.A.R.T. 9/11 in providing relief to Haitian citizens suffering the effects of this unprecedented natural and human catastrophe. H.E.A.R.T. 9/11 is a non-profit, non-sectarian volunteer organization comprising veteran police officers, firefighters, construction trade union workers, surviving families of those killed on September 11, 2001, and others who believe we can help ourselves by helping others. These courageous volunteers recognize the coordinated and sustained effort needed to respond to a crisis.
The Laborers came to know H.E.A.R.T. 9/11 by working together in dangerous and heartbreaking rescue, relief and cleanup efforts at Ground Zero, forming an alliance that is now reaching out with the same generosity and concern to the people of Haiti.
The devastation we saw in Haiti was awful," said Local 79 member Charles "Chaz" Rynkiewicz, recalling a complex, four-day scouting mission. "Assessing needs first, they then began to plan a response by identifying tasks and lining up resources needed to undertake them. The feeling of helping others with the skills that we have honed for many years just feels right," Rynkiewicz added. "These people need to turn this devastation around, and we are here to help any way we can."
During their first four-day scouting mission, the Local 79/H.E.A.R.T. 9/11 volunteers surveyed the damage and decided to join the effort to remove damaged homes and to rebuild homes, while also working to prepare the way for future volunteers. They divided their volunteer force in half and alternated in two-day shifts. Half worked on site in Haiti in hands-on relief work, as well as arranging such logistics as food, lodging, materials, tools and transportation for future volunteers. And half took support roles in the Dominican Republic, working with the U.S. Embassy, for example, to facilitate the evacuations of Haitians into the United States.
A total of 18 volunteers worked in this first mission, including Laborers, firefighters, police officers and EMTs. They responded quickly, but also took the long view, working to facilitate visits by future volunteers and organizing work schedules to ensure that the volunteers received respite from the physical and emotional distress of their grueling work.
The Laborers have a long and impressive track record of volunteer work in rebuilding devastated areas. For example, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita flooded New Orleans, volunteers from Local 79 immediately responded. Working efficiently in very challenging conditions, these generous and skilled volunteers hung sheetrock in numerous homes being rebuilt, and they also completely erected 10 homes themselves in just two weeks.
"We are proud that our leadership has supported us in our volunteer relief work," said Rynkiewicz. "Local 79 is deeply committed to volunteering, just as every local union is.We are proud to donate our skills as Laborers whenever we are needed. For us, a call for help is a call to get in there, get to work and make a difference."