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A service for auto industry professionals · Thursday, August 16, 2018 · 458,834,864 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Cover Story: Weathering the Storm Pt. 2 – Puerto Rican Member Glad to Help Island Recover

Lumi Irizarry of Local 686 in Lockport, New York. Photo by JESSIE JESSON / UAW LOCAL 686

Local 686’s Lumi Irizarry, a cell operator at General Motors’ Lockport, New York, components plant, saw the devastation hit the island and it was personal to him. A native Puerto Rican, the fates of his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins were in the hands of the 10th strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in history. When Irizarry finally heard from his family, his grandmother told him how the water was coming through the doors of their house and how there was a four-hour wait to get a gallon of gas. People were lined up everywhere for bottled water and the entire island was without power. He told his uncle, “If my work ever gives me the opportunity to come and help, I will be there.” Little did he know in a couple weeks he would get that exact opportunity.

A veteran of the National Guard, he had experience with hurricane recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. He was deployed to New York City and helped evacuate people from buildings and distributed food and clothing. His cousin, Kyle, also a Local 686 member, shared a post on the UAW International’s Facebook page asking for any skilled UAW members who would like to volunteer in Puerto Rico. Irizarry couldn’t believe what he was reading. He quickly responded and sent in his credentials. The UAW and General Motors arranged for him to volunteer. He went right from stacking condensers at Lockport to helping on the island where many family members, friends, and strangers were struggling.

“I am very excited that we can come together as a UAW family,” Irizarry said. “It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing that my family in Puerto Rico are not alone. I am very thankful for this opportunity to help.”

UAW Local 686 President Dave Barnard and Chairman Mike Branch thanked Irizarry for his work.

“We are proud of Brother Lumi for stepping up during these dire circumstances,” Branch said. “It is a privilege to support his decision to volunteer.”

Jessie Jesson UAW Local 686

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