AFL-CIO Relief Mission to Puerto Rico

The AFL-CIO including CWA is sending union volunteers to help with disaster relief in Puerto Rico. Conditions on the island are very severe. There is a need for specialists in construction, transportation and healthcare staff. There will also be a need for able-bodied volunteers who can help with removing debris and big clean up.

There is no cost for airfare. There will be housing, food, and water, but sleeping arrangements are at the Coliseum in San Juan on cots. There is limited cell phone service on the island and there is no internet/ wi-fi in the Coliseum.

All confirmed participants will depart on the morning of Wednesday, October 4. We are asking for a two-week commitment, though shorter deployments (at least one week) may be accepted. United Airlines will provide vouchers for return flights.

Click here to download a PDF of the volunteer form.

What to Expect – Work

  • Individuals will be assigned work based on their professional experience, skills and the changing needs on the ground.
  • Typically indoor work (such as doctors and nurses) may be asked to work in facilities with limited power, decaying services, etc.
  • Typically, outdoor work (such as construction and transportation) will be in the heat.  Expect tropical conditions with humidity and high heat.
  • Each work assignment will be different, but expect long work shifts.

Professional Background/Skills Needed

  • Below is a basic breakdown of professional and skilled backgrounds needed. Please note that interested volunteers who do not fall into these categories cannot be ticketed for the flight from Newark to San Juan.
  • 40 general truck drivers
  • 12 trash truck drivers
  • 47 debris/trash collectors
  • 15 electricians
  • 12 plumbers
  • 13 welders
  • 15 laborers
  • 8 carpenters
  • 4 masons
  • 2 painters
  • 27 operating engineers
  • 54 RNs
  • 39 MDs

What to Expect – Housing and Accommodations


  • Busses will be on hand to transport volunteers from the airport to the San Juan Coliseum.
  • The San Juan Coliseum is set-up with dormitory-style housing with cots.
  • Showers, bathrooms, and laundry services will be available on-site.  It is unclear the proportion of these services in relation to the number of people staying at the Coliseum.
  • Three meals a day will be served at the Coliseum – it is unlikely that the cafeteria services will be able to accommodate dietary restrictions.
  • The Coliseum has power and AC.  Most of the island does not.
  • There is limited cell phone service on the island. 
  • There is no internet/wifi available at the Coliseum.  Individuals and affiliates may bring hotspots, which may provide wifi, but it is difficult to say if or how well this will work.

Flight to San Juan

  • Non-scheduled flight will depart sometime during the morning of Wednesday, October 4.  We are waiting final details from United Airlines on the timing of the flight.
  • All volunteers aboard this flight will have a waiver for a United flight returning to Newark Airport in New Jersey.  
  • Volunteers should plan to pack for two weeks of work in Puerto Rico and may plan to check a bag for free as well as carry-on, per usual airline rules. All packing must be in accordance with TSA rules (no batteries in checked bags, etc.).
  • Individuals on the ground in San Juan have asked us to bring tools, medical kits, etc. We are working to receive clearer direction on what is allowed and how to pack.
  • Pack toiletries to plan for up to two weeks.  Showers and laundry services will be available.
  • Plan to pack a towel. A sleeping bag would be helpful but is not required.