As news traveled around the world that a major earthquake had struck Haiti, so many of us bowed our heads in sorrow. There is no appropriate way to measure its impact on that already-impoverished country. We can only watch in horror as emergency teams pull bodies from destroyed buildings and hope against hope that the rescued victims are alive. Our union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), has many members with family, friends and neighbors in Haiti who have lost everything. The loss of life and extent of damage is almost incomprehensible.
At this moment of urgent need, the Haitian government - and the people of Haiti - have asked for help from the world community. Those of us who can must heed this call in whatever way possible. AFSCME is donating an initial $25,000 in relief funds to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center's Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers fund. In addition, we encourage people to go to the Solidarity Center's website, solidaritycenter.org, to make a donation.
Next Monday, January 18, our nation celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. AFSCME has a particular tie to Dr. King and his causes. For it was in Memphis, where he joined 1,300 AFSCME Local 1733 sanitation workers in their struggle for equality, that he was assassinated in 1968. This tragic bond has always strengthened our resolve to carry on his work.
Dr. King said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
In that spirit, the AFSCME family is asking all of America to rally to the aid of those suffering in Haiti. Now is the time for Americans to help those desperately needing our help. Now is the time to take action and lend a helping hand to the people of Haiti.
MLK Day is a reminder of what this great man stood for, and of our on-going responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. That is why this day has become a day of service. I can think of no greater service than helping the survivors of the earthquake that hit Haiti this past Monday.