Weathering the Storms

January 3, 2023

Members affected by climate chaos describe their experiences and the policy changes needed to lessen its impact.

Screen Shot 2023-01-03 at 2.30.54 PM.pngFlorida members living and working in the path of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on September 28, are still reeling from its effects. It was the most deadly hurricane to strike their state since 1935.

Kenzi Stewart, who works as an 1199 Diet Clerk in the food and nutrition department at HCA Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida, remembers: “I was not at work that day, but my boyfriend who also works in my department at the hospital was there when the hurricane hit.” Part of the roof was blown off in the storm causing major leaks that meant patients had to be moved to different floors.

When Stewart returned to her apartment in Fort Myers after the storm, “it looked like a bomb went off. Nothing prepared me for the level of damage. People are still traumatized from the pandemic, and now this. Thankfully, my apartment came through without much damage.”

As a Member Political Organizer for 1199, Stewart knows that the only way to protect herself and her community from the worst effects of climate chaos is to press her elected representatives to support climate-friendly legislation. “Subsidizing the installation of solar panels would be a good start,” says Stewart.

Just one month after Hurricane Ian struck Florida, members in New York were commemorating the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy on October 29. That storm in 2012 brought widespread destruction to the city’s transit system and hardhit areas like Staten Island and the Rockaways.

Kimmarie Fish, RN and Delegate at Staten Island University Hospital, says her family was completely devastated by Sandy.

“I had more than 14 feet of water in my house, all the way up to the attic. When I left work after a 48-hour shift, I had nothing, not even a toothbrush. Everything was gone,” she said.

Her daughter Johnny was moved to safety in advance of the storm, but her husband decided to ride out the storm with the dog and found himself trapped in the attic for 10 hours.

Still an active union member, Fish agreed to lend her voice to the New York campaign to pass a ballot initiative to approve the Environmental Bond Act. This measure gives the go-ahead for the state to borrow $4.2 billion to pay for a number of projects to protect New York from more extreme weather due to climate change.

It includes improvements to stormwater systems, funding for wastewater infrastructure upgrades, wetland protections and switching to zero-emission school buses. Thanks in part to 1199-member activism, the initiative passed by a wide margin in the November 8th election.

1199 Magazine: November - December 2022