Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is what we union T.H.U.G.s do for homeless veterans

D.C. union THUGs
(Cross-posted from Teamster Magazine):

We move furniture for them into their new homes.

Local 639 recently teamed up with the D.C. Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) to aid homeless veterans in Washington, D.C. OVA helped out homeless local veterans by housing them in government homes in D.C. The housing didn’t have any furniture, though, and that’s where Local 639 stepped in.
“President Tommy Ratliff and I went and met with the Office of Veterans Affairs in D.C. I basically said, ‘Look, why do we have homeless vets?’ That was my first question,” said John Gibson, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 639 in D.C. “Then we talked about how the Teamsters Union could help these guys.”
Gibson said the local was first contacted about the need for furniture for these vets by Helmets to Hardhats, a national program the Teamsters Union supports that offers job assistance and training opportunities for union jobs to veterans.

OVA told Gibson about warehouses full of old furniture from military bases that was going to be crushed and thrown away. The vets could have that furniture, but OVA didn’t have the time or money to move it. Furniture was also donated by area nonprofits and individuals.
“They asked if we could help and we said absolutely,” Gibson said. “We coordinated with YRC, who let us use a YRC truck every week, primarily on weekends.
“Every Saturday, we’ve been going up to the warehouse and loading the truck with bedding, dressers, tables, refrigerators—whatever they need,” Gibson said. “We take a crew of volunteers out and do three or four stops every Saturday.” The Teamster volunteers didn’t take a break over a holiday weekend, instead spending Veterans Day weekend continuing their efforts to honor veterans.

In addition to himself, Gibson said the volunteers are YRC and UPS Teamsters and business agents from Local 639. Gibson, who is still on the seniority list at YRC, drives the truck. Other Teamsters that participate include YRC Shop Steward Mickey Fonville, Ed Conroy, and Business Agents Rob Reddix and Randy Roberts.
“When we meet the vets we deliver this stuff to, they’re always so appreciative. Some get tears in their eyes and some even say, ‘Thank God for the Teamsters.’”
This partnership agreement between the local and OVA also includes help from the National Capitol Veterans Coalition (NCVC).
In a recent letter from the director of OVA to Gibson, the agency writes: “NCVC and OVA is extremely appreciative of the use of the truck from the YRC and the volunteer drivers and helpers of Local 639… The Office of Veterans Affairs, NCVC and Mayor Vincent C. Gray is very appreciative of your volunteerism and your support for D.C. veterans and their families. Please thank your local President Thomas “Tommy” Ratliff and the Teamster volunteers for their assistance.”
"T.H.U.G.s," by the way, stands for "Those Helpful Union Guys."