Four hours after Angelinos participated in a state-wide earthquake drill, the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region announced a new partnership to train labor union members to serve as disaster response volunteers in the hours, days, weeks and months after a major disaster.
A memorandum of understanding outlines the partnership's goal to train 100 union members in emergency response by the end of 2018 while also identifying resources and critical skills such heavy equipment operation and logistics that can be strategically deployed following a major disaster.
The agreement is the first of its kind between a labor federation and the American Red Cross and is supported by Emergency Management Department for the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management.
"We know when the big one hits that we will have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people in need of sheters" said Jarrett Barrios, CEO of the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. "Those shelters will need volunteers, and those volunteers don't come from nowhere."
"The 800,000 union members and 1.2 million residents who are part of union households [in Los Angeles] are now part of our Red Cross family, too. And we are so, so excited."
The announcement was pre-empted by a state-wide earthquake preparedness event known as the Great ShakeOut, which provided an opportunity for Angelenos to see how public officials mobilize in the seconds and minutes after a major disaster.
But healing a city requires more than city resources alone can handle.
“Our building trades members can operate heavy equipment that can clear rubble. Our Hollywood unions can set up a city in a day,” said Rusty Hicks, President of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor. “Building a resilient community requires each of us to get organized to help out in order to get each other back on our feet. And no one is organized to spring into action like the Los Angeles labor movement.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the collaboration will help the rebuilding process after an earthquake, fire or any other disaster. After a natural disaster it could take the Federal Emergency Agency more than three days to mobilize, leaving people without aid. The partnership between Labor and the Red Cross can help fill in the gaps until the government can step in or allow the government to handle more critical situations, thus saving lives.