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


Puerto Rico is an island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens and still needs our help.

Nearly three months after two devastating hurricanes, Puerto Rico’s recovery has been agonizingly slow. Nearly 400 of our members remain homeless. UAW members in Region 9A have generously donated more than $100,000 to help their brothers and sisters, while the International Executive Board has voted to donate $100,000. UAW Region 9A, which includes Puerto Rico, has set up an online donation campaign at

The lives and the future of our Puerto Rico members remain in peril. Let’s do all we can to show them that they are not forgotten and that we stand with them.

If you prefer to send a check, you may send it to UAW Region 9A, 111 South Road, Farmington, CT 06032. Payable to UAW Region 9A, and marked “Puerto Rico Relief.”