Friday, May 27, 2011

Teamsters mourn dead, help the living after MO tornado

A Missouri Teamster helps out in Joplin.
Teamsters are mourning the death of their sister Heather Baum Terry, who died in the 250-mph tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., five days ago. Terry, 35, was an employee of LeBarge Inc. and a member of Local 823.

The death toll from the mile-wide tornado reached 132 victims today. Many Teamsters lost their homes and a Teamster plant was destroyed. Four thousand jobs were lost and 156 people are still missing from the horrific storm.

Local 823 members and Joplin residents have been helped by Roy Gillespie, Teamsters human rights commissioner and member of Joint Council 13, along with other HRC representatives. Gillespie and Rod Taylor, president of Local 823, searched for missing members by walking through shelters and coordinating with FEMA and the Red Cross. They helped find 40 missing Teamsters.

A grilling station was set up in Joplin for disaster victims and rescue workers. Annie Deken, AFL-CIO community services liaison with the Springfield Labor Council, reached out to Teamsters Local 245. They offered food and utensils. Tim McPhail, assistant business agent at Local 245, brought the supplies to the station. Local 45 also helped feed people after the disaster.

Roy Gillespie helped find warehouse space for donations on Tuesday. The next day, Teamster volunteers from St. Louis and Joplin started loading and unloading trucks right away. Said Deken:
The work that was accomplished in such a short time was amazing. It was a great feeling to see the unions come through and play such a vital role in the process.
Tractor trailers and drivers from Joint Councils 13 and 56 are also helping in recovery efforts. Clean-up efforts began on Thursday. Rod Taylor, president of Local 823, helped get a group of Teamster volunteers from all over Missouri to put in a full day of work on Saturday.

“The best thing to do is donate to the Disaster Relief Fund,” Gillespie said. “These people have lost everything. If you give them food and clothing and furniture, they have no place to put it.”