Tag Archives: Hurricane

Musicians Come Together to Aid Union Brothers and Sisters

Hurricane Irma left more than 13 million Floridians without power and property damage is in the billions. As soon as it was safe to go outside, members of Florida’s labor unions and unions from across the south pitched in to help other working Floridians by donating and delivering food, water, and supplies, while members of the state’s trade unions set to work rebuilding.

By early October, the AFM’s Hurricane Relief Fund had begun to release funds to help members affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, who were referred by their locals. Numerous orchestras, bands, and freelance musicians have initiated their own fundraising efforts to help people in their recovery, including Local 802 (New York City) members who pitched in to collect funds and supplies.

In early October, the ICSOM Governing Board issued a call to action requesting donations for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, an ICSOM member since 2003. The ICSOM Governing Board was in touch with ICSOM representative José Martin, vice president of Local 555, on the day before the storm hit. Due to power outages and lack of cell coverage, it was two weeks before they were able to reach him again. “Those musicians of the Puerto Rico Symphony truly are heroes and they have the respect and support of their ICSOM family,” says ICSOM President Paul Austin.

Martin says, in part: “Some have lost their homes to floods or winds. We’re grateful for the spiritual, heart, and material support. The musicians, as they emerge and get in touch, are stating that the orchestra will be playing for the different communities and at shelters and fundraisers for all the people affected by the hurricane.”

The call to action asked ICSOM membership, and all AFM brothers and sisters, to respond generously to the Puerto Rican members in need. At this writing, $122,500 has been collected through the Call to Action.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as Houston Symphony Orchestra (HSO) musicians, members of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX), were cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey. Even though flooding near its hall cancelled a number of HSO’s concerts, the orchestra’s musicians played on. They gathered in smaller chamber groups to perform in area shelters. Although there are ongoing repairs as a result of flooding, the symphony returned to Jones Hall October 21.

A support system and assistance fund were set up to help Houston orchestra members, staff, and chorus members who had lost homes and possessions, or needed assistance with cleanup.

The Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) has also given funds to hurricane affected locals. These funds provide much needed earnings for musicians who are temporarily out of work, as well as help to provide free live music for the communities that are rebuilding.

Orchestra Steps Up to Heal the Island

Nearly one month after damage from Hurricane Maria left 10% to 15% of Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra members homeless, the orchestra began a series of free concerts to help heal the island’s people. The orchestra’s musicians are members of Local 555 (San Juan, PR).

“Our idea is to play for those who need more,” says Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra Music Director Maximiano Valdés in a WBUR radio interview. “There are many people left with nothing here.” The themes of the concerts, which include both classical and traditional Puerto Rican music, will be loss, survival, and rebuilding. 

Local 555 President Miguel Rivera, a trumpet player, also took part in the radio interview. He said the needs of the people go beyond food and water. “The people of Puerto Rico need food for the soul, I think. And music for me, is the best art because it goes right to your heart,” he says.

The first concert was performed October 13 in San Juan. The goal is to bring music to the hearts of many of those affected by the hurricane. The musicians plan to perform throughout November, not only in the capital city, but also in smaller interior cities.

“I think it is very important that we start performing as an orchestra and reaching out to people because we need to feel hope and I think music helps us feel hope,” says piccolo player Ana María Hernández. “Music is the universal language, and it can definitely heal people.”

Composer and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda’s benefit single, “Almost Like Praying” continues to raise funds for relief. NBC aired a special about his fundraising efforts on October 24 for the Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS hurricane relief fund.

Texas Workers Relief Fund

Unions Reach Out to Those in Need

Texas Workers Relief Fund

The AFL-CIO estimated that 360,355 Working America members and household members were affected in Texas, while another 1.2 million were affected in Florida. The infrastructure and communities of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been crippled by the disaster.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas AFL-CIO set up the Texas Workers Relief Fund. The national AFL-CIO donated $100,000 and announced it was raising $5 million more. The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust announced it would invest $500 million over the next five years to provide affordable housing in the areas affected by Harvey. This was all before hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall.

Local 389, the Central Florida Music Association (Orlando, FL) reports that Disney, its largest employer, waived the Act of God clause so that musicians and other workers would be paid for the time they were unable to work due to closures.

In September alone, more than 700 union members offered their time to volunteer in relief efforts. When Harvey hit, volunteer nurses from National Nurses United and IBEW electrical workers rushed to Houston to pitch in. The Building Trust Fund, a bank collective trust, began work with the AFL-CIO on job-creating, real estate, and infrastructure investment.

The most difficult to reach Working Americans live in Puerto Rico. When it was reported that thousands of shipping containers full of food, water, and medicines were stranded at the Port of San Juan, more than 100 truck drivers, members of the Teamsters union, volunteered to travel to Puerto Rico to help.

The AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Air Line Pilots Association, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and United Airlines teamed up to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers to Puerto Rico to help with relief and rebuilding. Volunteers represented 20 unions from 17 states. The work was coordinated through the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor and the city of San Juan.

United Airlines volunteered a 777-300 to airlift the relief team. The Teamsters Disaster Relief recently completed a two-week mission on the island. Union pilots, flight attendants, members of SEIU, and more, all volunteered their time for the flight originating from Newark Liberty International Airport, transporting more than 35,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies—food, water, and equipment. Puerto Rican evacuees received complimentary seats on the return flight.

“Our movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “But we are even better when we find common ground and partner with business and industry on solutions to uplift our communities.”

Hurricane Aftermath: Please Help Your Union Brothers and Sisters:

Now that the floodwaters of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have receded and the focus of the press has moved on to other topics, AFM members affected by the storms are beginning to put their lives back together. We all sat horrified as we watched storm surge waters inundate businesses and residential communities, collapse buildings, and float cars and trucks as the hurricanes made landfall and worked their way inland. I can’t remember a time when three category 4 or 5 hurricanes followed so closely on the heels of one another.

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Hurricane Irma

Donate to AFM’s Hurricane Irma Relief Fund

On September 6, Hurricane Irma passed just north of Puerto Rico with ferocious winds of 185 miles per hour as a category 5 hurricane, then roared past Cuba and ashore onto the US mainland Sunday, September 10, battering the entire state of Florida with an enormous reach of more than 400 miles. Irma made landfall on the southern tip of Florida as a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds in excess of 130 miles per hour, causing massive flooding and storm surges, resulting in more than five million power outages, and creating catastrophic tornadoes. The fury of Hurricane Irma occurred on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall August 25 on the Texas Gulf Coast, between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas, just east of Houston and Galveston as a category 4 hurricane as well, marking the first time in recorded history that two hurricanes as powerful as category 4 made landfall in the same year, in the United States.

These disasters have hit AFM members hard. Hurricane Harvey displaced more than one million people along the Texas Gulf Coast. The storm affected all Houston Arts District organizations, flooding Jones Hall, the home of the Houston Symphony. It totally devastated Wortham Center, which hosts performances by the Houston Ballet and Grand Opera. “No one knows when the opera and ballet can get back in there,” Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President Lovie Smith-Wright reported.

The Houston Symphony has managed to continue operations by moving concerts to other locations around town, pending Jones Hall repairs. The homes of dozens of Houston AFM members were totally destroyed. In South Texas and across Florida, scores of freelance musicians who work steady and short-term casual club dates and single engagements in restaurants and nightclubs have suffered loss of work.

Hurricane Irma’s trail of wind and storm surge destruction in Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, Miami, Naples, and up the east and west coasts of Florida resulted in a coast-to-coast pummeling. Officials are still trying to assess the extent of damage. A stunning
13 million Florida residents were without power for days. Irma’s parting blow to Florida, as it moved on to Georgia and South Carolina, was record flooding in the Jacksonville area. Together, Irma and Harvey may have caused up to $200 billion in damage in Texas and Florida, according to Moody’s Analytics.

In one bit of good news, Local 389 (Orlando, FL) Secretary Sam Zambito reported that Disney advised that it will pay its Orlando theme park employees, including musicians, for all shifts cancelled as a result of the storm. Bravo Disney!

How You Can Help

In an effort to respond to the epic devastation and to help affected AFM members and their families residing in federal disaster areas in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas who are fighting to recover from one of the most destructive US natural disasters in history, we have established the AFM Hurricane Relief Fund. It’s more important than ever that we stand together and help our brothers and sisters. Please open the afm.org home page and click the “DONATE HERE” link.

If you prefer to write a check, send it to:

AFM Hurricane Relief Fund
American Federation of Musicians,
1501 Broadway, Suite 600
New York, NY 10036

Please note: contributions to the AFM Hurricane Relief Fund are not tax-deductible.

How to Get Help

If you are a victim of Hurricane Harvey or Irma, here’s how you can get help.

AFM Hurricane Relief Fund

Download the instructions and application for hurricane assistance here:


The Actors Fund

Musicians affected by Harvey or Irma should contact The Actors Fund for information on emergency financial assistance and other resources.

For Harvey assistance: The Actors Fund’s Los Angeles office at intakela@actorsfund.org or 323.933.9244, ext. 455.

For Irma assistance: The Actors Fund’s New York office at intakeny@actorsfund.org or 212.221.7300, ext. 119.

AFL-CIO Union Plus

Musicians who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey or Irma, and who are participating in certain Union Plus programs may be eligible for financial assistance through the Union Plus Disaster Relief Grant program. Please visit the Union Plus Disaster Relief Fund at unionplus.org/disaster to learn more about Union Plus benefits and eligibility requirements.


Union musicians affected by Harvey may apply for assistance from the Texas Workers Relief Fund established by the Texas AFL-CIO here: http://www.texasaflcio.org/relief/

If we stand together and act now to take care of each other, we can make a difference. Please donate to the AFM Hurricane Relief Fund today by visiting AFM.org and clicking “DONATE HERE.”