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AFSCME Members Are on the Front Lines of a Disaster

Photo credit: Army National Guard
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By Namita Waghray and Clyde Weiss ·

HOUSTON – During what may be the worst natural disaster in Texas history, AFSCME public service workers and first responders are making heroic efforts to keep people alive, restore essential services and protect property.

With at least eight people reported dead so far from Hurricane and now Tropical Storm Harvey – and with flooding in Houston already at historic proportions – stories of courage by state and local government employees will continue to emerge in the coming days.

This we know so far about the work AFSCME members are doing on the front lines:

On Saturday, Aug. 26, hardworking members of AFSCME Texas Corrections based in Angleton, Beaumont and Huntsville evacuated approximately 4,500 prisoners from three prison facilities as a precaution when the Brazos River began to flood.

“The truth is, we prepare for emergency evacuation situations like this all the time, I work with the best crew and some of these correctional officers worked all night and the next day,” said Sgt. Jackie Parsonage, a member of AFSCME Local 3114 in Angleton. “In fact, the Brazos River has flooded twice and we have had to evacuate units in May and June. Neither of those situations or what happened today puts anyone in danger – not the inmates or the staff.”

However, Parsonage added, if the transfer had not been properly planned and executed, “the consequences would be grave – but we would never let that happen.”

Elsewhere:

  • Many of the hospital workers of Harris County Local 1550 have been unable to leave work to check on their own homes.
  • An AFSCME member, Cory Marshall, used a dump truck to rescue a pregnant woman who later gave birth at a hospital.
  • Houston municipal workers and road crews – all members of HOPE (Houston Organization of Public Employees) – are working with firefighters and police officers to rescue those trapped by the floods and deliver clean water.
  • AFSCME emergency medical services (EMS) members from California came to Texas to help; their first action was to evacuate a hospital in Victoria, Texas.

Public service workers like these deserve our respect and admiration for putting the safety of their communities ahead of their own. But they, too, get hurt by natural disasters. There are about 8,500 AFSCME sisters and brothers living in the areas ravaged by Harvey. To help affected AFSCME members, please donate through the AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund.

(Contributing: Justin Lee)

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