Issued October 04, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. - At noon today, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry join 32BJ SEIU, community and Puerto Ricans in the Washington, D.C. area, whose families are suffering on the island after Hurricane Maria at a protest in front of the White House, to demand immediate and sufficient aid to Relieve and Rebuild Puerto Rico. The protest is part of a day of action in several cities across the country to highlight the plight of 3.4 million US citizens in Puerto Rico who have no electricity and drinking water, face shortages in fuel and food and are dealing with severely crippled telecommunications.
"It's immoral and Un-American to demand that Puerto Rican families first pay back the banks before they can rebuild their homes, hospitals, schools and roads," said Jaime Contreras, 32BJ Vice President. "Congress and the Trump Administration must act now to prevent an already growing crisis turn into a full-blown tragedy."
The group echoed a nationwide call for the complete elimination of Puerto Rico's $72 billion public debt, which is currently under review in a federal bankruptcy court.
Even as families have been struggling to survive, and as a Category 5 hurricane hit the island, banks have been relentless, pushing in the courts to ensure they're paid. On October 4, one of these hearings will take place in federal court in New York, moved from storm-stricken San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The devastating damage that Hurricane Maria has brought to Puerto Rico has come on top of the storm caused by the public debt crisis and the recession that has made Puerto Rican families suffer for decades by cutting vital funds from the commonwealth's infrastructure and leaving the fragile island especially vulnerable to hurricane like Maria.
Members of local labor and community organizations like 32BJ SEIU, in coordination with VAMOS4PR, a coalition of community, labor and civil rights organizations are fighting for an economy fair for all Puerto Ricans. Other cities participating in the national day of action include, Boston, MA, Hartford, CT, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI, Orlando, FL, Seattle, WA and Oakland, CA among others.
With 163,000 members in 11 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 32BJ members hail from 64 different countries and speak 28 different languages. The overwhelming majority of 32BJ's 18,000 members in the D.C. Metropolitan Area and Baltimore are immigrants from Central and South America.