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Change to Win Unions, Rainbow/PUSH, Community Groups Commit Resources and Know-How to Massive Worker Training Initiative to Rebuild the Gulf Coast

Friday, September 23, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC - In partnership with community groups like Rainbow/PUSH and the Black Leadership Forum, the Change to Win Coalition today rolled out a blueprint for a massive, multi-industry program to train an army of workers to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

"We have the resources and know-how to create the most successful worker training initiative in American history so that poverty is something we can look at in the rearview mirror," said Anna Burger chair of Change to Win, a coalition of seven major unions representing six million workers. "We will train thousands of workers from the Gulf Coast and place them in good paying jobs with benefits you can raise a family on."

The Change to Win unions already have extensive experience in recruitment and training that can be rapidly deployed, and have committed this expertise to undertake a community-based effort unique it its scope and spirit.

 The coalition is ready to execute a comprehensive renewal and retraining program for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that allows families in these ravaged communities to rebuild their lives by putting them on a path to a better economic future. The plans include coordinating and implementing the following:

    * Stationary training facility operated by the Laborers in Livonia, Louisiana that is staffed with skilled instructors certified to provide training in hazardous waste, OSHA 10-hour, mold remediation, first aid/CPR and basic construction. The Laborers also have multiple mobile training facilities already in the Gulf region that can do on-site training for contractors.
    * Worker Assistance Center that expands on services already provided by UNITE-HERE in the region. In addition to providing immediate relief like food, housing, health care, day care and legal services, the center will include comprehensive case management and labor-exchange data capacity to match local workers and evacuees to training and jobs.
    * Program that builds on SEIU's longstanding partnership with health care employers which have trained workers across the country -- including 40,000 in New York last year alone. SEIU health care workers are bringing this expertise and their employer relationships to the Gulf region to train and move displaced residents into jobs that make the health care system more responsive to consumer needs.

Resources and dollars already committed to the rebuilding effort will stretch exponentially further when paired up with the skills and experience coalition unions bring to this worker training initiative.

"This plan has the potential to transform poverty into empowerment for workers in the Gulf Coast region," said Rainbow/PUSH Coalition President Jesse Jackson. "By creatively investing in communities, rebuilding infrastructure and devoting resources to job training, we can work together to elevate workers in the region to new heights of prosperity and self-reliance instead of providing another windfall for corporations."

Teams of coalition union volunteers are already providing health services, delivering supplies, removing hazardous material, and beginning the rebuilding process, in addition to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide immediate relief and to bring evacuees back home to the Gulf Coast.

Stephanie Mueller, 202-842-9884 or Avril Smith, 202-898-3480

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