Big Labor fundraising off of Hurricane Harvey?

The Washington Free Beacon brings us a disturbing if somewhat murky story of Big Labor possibly exploiting the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey to conduct fundraising in support of unionization efforts.

As the disaster unfolded, countless charitable organizations began raising money and collecting supplies to help the people of Texas who were affected by the destructive winds and historic levels of flooding which followed. Many of them, such as the Red Cross, are experienced at this sort of thing and know how to effectively get aid to those most in need quickly and efficiently. Others were a bit more questionable in terms of either their expertise or intent. But this story about “hurricane relief” fundraising by the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund should be a cautionary tale if you’re looking for ways to help the storm’s victims.

Big Labor is looking to exploit the devastation of Hurricane Harvey to raise money for its organizing efforts in Texas.

The Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, a labor-affiliated group looking to make inroads in right-to-work Texas, launched the Hurricane Harvey Community Relief Fund in the wake of the flooding that has devastated the Houston area. The donation page says the fund will “move the material aid the most vulnerable hit by Harvey,” but that “material” goes beyond standard humanitarian aid. Donations, the page says, will help the SEIU-funded group organize workers.

“Your donation is vital to ensuring that we have the resources we need to organize and fight for Texans devastated by Hurricane Harvey,” the page says.

The relief fund is sponsored by a number of prominent liberal advocacy groups and politically influential unions: the SEIU; Communication Workers of America; Faith in Texas, a group that fights for “economic and racial justice”; Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; Texas Housers, an affordable housing advocate; and the labor-affiliated Workers Defense Project.

It’s hard to be completely sure what they’re up to because their pitch is so vaguely worded. But they do talk about their plans to aid Harvey’s victims through their efforts to, “organize and advocate for our devastated communities, shining a spotlight on inequalities that emerge in the restoration…”

The Free Beacon finally obtained a response from the group after asking precisely how this “hurricane relief aid” was going to work. They’re claiming that it’s definitely going to help those impacted by Harvey, but still refuse to define just what that “help” will look like.

Texas Organizing Project Education Fund Executive Director Michelle Tremillo said that “100 percent of the money raised into this fund will be spent directly on ensuring low income and people of color are not forgotten in the relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts,” in a statement released Wednesday night. The group has yet to decide on exactly how the fund will be distributed, but said the fund’s expenditures “will range from personal hygiene items to legal aid and advocacy.” The exact budgetary strategy will not become apparent “until after the floods recede” and pledged the group would be transparent with its expenditures.

That’s still dancing on the head of a pin. If you’re actually doing storm relief, what’s so hard about simply saying that you’ll be paying for food, shelter, water or house restoration services? Why must the answer keep including words such as “advocacy” and “making sure people are not forgotten?” There’s also something really dodgy about declaring that how you spend the money won’t be known until after the flood waters have receded. The need for help is immediate and urgent. Sitting on the cash until the full cleanup is underway seems not only shifty, but needlessly cruel.

If you’re sending out fundraising letters claiming to be sending relief to the hurricane victims and you wind up spending a single penny of it on your union organizing efforts in a right to work state, you are acting in a despicable fashion. For anyone considering making a donation, if you actually want to help people, send your goods and cash to reputable groups who are on the ground right now getting the job done, not some Big Labor front group who will decide what to do with the money “later.”

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