Jeff Wiggins often attends the Fancy Farm political picnic, which is set for Saturday.
The Frankfort-based state AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer will be a no-show this time.
“It’s more important to help the people of eastern Kentucky who are hurting in the floods than to go to Fancy Farm and listen to anti-worker politicians bash other politicians who support working people,” Wiggins said.
Devastating floods have claimed at least 37 lives in several of the state’s mountain counties. Thousands of people are homeless and hundreds of homes, businesses and public buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
Wiggins is touring eastern Kentucky with Gerald Adkins, owner of Working Strategies 2, a lobbying/consulting firm also in the capital city. Essentially, they are on a fact-finding mission.
“We want to find out what folks need and let them know what we can provide,” Adkins said. “For example, if they need an electrician or a plumber we can coordinate those needs through the state AFL-CIO.
Wiggins said many union members live and work in the stricken counties. But he and Adkins stressed that the state AFL-CIO aims to help everybody who needs help, not just union members.
“That’s the union way,” he said.
Wiggins confessed that he didn't know what to expect. “It’s horrific,” he said. “ lot of people there haven't been heard from. In eastern Kentucky a cell phone is almost useless. You don't know which bridge is washed out. You don't know what road is safe and what's not.
“A tornado rips up the surface and damages or destroys what's in its path. In a flood, water undermines everything.”
However, Adkins does know what he and Wiggins likely will face. "I lived through a flood in the northern West Virginia mountains in 1985. There will be a lot of challenges.”
The state AFL-CIO is no stranger to meeting the challenges of disaster relief. Kentucky’s largest labor federation teamed up with the United Way of Kentucky and the Greater Louisville Labor Council to create a special Union Member Disaster Relief fund to aid union members and their families victimized by the deadly tornadoes that that ravaged western Kentucky on December 10.
Adkins hopes some of that money can be diverted for Eastern Kentucky flood relief. "They're still working on the dynamics, but that's the goal.”
Several thousand Mineworkers, Steelworkers and members of other unions are in the flooded and the flooded counties. "We'll be trying to reach out to them too, as we did in Eastern Kentucky,” Adkins said. "I think a lot of what we're going to do will be what we did in Western Kentucky.”
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