AFSCME Local 127 members help their community recover from historic storms

[correction: This article was written by Daisha Benjamin, Communications Officer of AFSCME DC 36.] 

In late January and early February, two historic storms hit the City of San Diego causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

Members of AFSCME Local 127 working for the City of San Diego played an important role in both preparing for the record-setting storms, as well as the recovery efforts. Larry Phillips, a landfill equipment operator, assisted with deploying equipment, such as excavators, distributing trash bins, and deploying equipment operators to different areas. Jon Barnes, one of the city's equipment operators, worked tirelessly filling and distributing sandbags, clearing tree branches and debris from storm drains, and putting up k-rails to prepare as much as possible before the storms made landfall.

Now in the aftermath of the storms, their focus has shifted to helping their community recover. “This was probably the worst damage I have ever seen, and I’ve been in San Diego since 1976,” said Phillips, who has worked for the City of San Diego for 29 years. He helped clear debris from the streets and helped families place their flooded belongings into trash bins. “It was crazy to see my friends’ parents lose everything. People who have been in their homes for 20 or 30 years and it all went down the drain.”

Barnes, whose own home was flooded during the storm, continued to work 16-hour shifts cleaning storm channels, and removing debris from the streets, even as the work became risky. “Some of the tasks we are performing can be dangerous,” said Barnes. “With the type of work I do, you have to be cautious of electrical wires and gas lines underground. In a storm like this, you don’t really know where the line markings are because of the flooding.”

AFSCME Local 127 members’ commitment to supporting their community in the face of devastation has been unwavering, despite being understaffed and having to work long hours. “I’ve been working 12-to-15-hour shifts, and I don’t mind because the bottom line is, this is my city, I grew up in it and I want to do what’s best for the city,” said Phillips. “What motivates me is a chance to make an impact, a chance to feel like I accomplished something in the day.”

Public service workers like Larry Phillips and Jon Barnes deserve respect and admiration from their employer and the community for their hard work and dedication to keeping the public safe.