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UA Members rebuild Waverly in wake of devastating flood

UA Members rebuild Waverly in wake of devastating flood

House in Waverly after flood.

On Aug. 21, 2021, residents of Waverly, Tenn. experienced a devastating flood that damaged homes, roads, cell phone towers, businesses and crucial infrastructure.

A record-breaking 17 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, leaving piles of debris all over the small town and taking the lives of 22 people.

Union members responded to the call for help, providing their skilled labor to repair the town of Waverly. 

Members of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 572 in Nashville were essential in the recovery efforts in Waverly. Local 572 members helped remove debris, stripping and hanging drywall, removing insulation from underneath the houses, taking out decking and making sure plumbing and HVAC needs were accommodated. 

Billy Dycus, President of the Tennessee AFL-CIO, visited Waverly twice a week for weeks to organize volunteers – many of whom were retirees.

“Our retirees have a unique skill set that comes from years of experience in the building trades,” Dycus said. “They’re able to provide things beyond the normal workforce.” 

Of the 40 AFL-CIO members affected by the flood, four were Local 572 members. The Tennessee AFL-CIO’s Disaster Relief Fund raised and distributed funds to its members. 

This fund was set up in response to the tornado on March 3, 2020, that struck many areas of Tennessee and has since raised $53,976. 

Dycus was concerned the debris piles from houses built before current codes and regulations may contain asbestos and other chemicals that were baking in the sun. 

“We plan to continue to go on until we can’t do anything anymore,” he said. “They’re just looking for somebody to show up and help.”

Two months after the flooding, there were still houses that had not been assessed for damage. 

“We honestly feel like we need to be a presence there until it’s done – until we’ve seen this come to fruition and these people have gotten the help they need,” Local 572 Business Manager Eric Coons said.

Due to the workload and the overwhelming number of people who still need help, members of Local 572, the AFL-CIO and the Tennessee State Pipe Trades Association (TSPTA) continue to make weekly trips to Waverly to help with repairs and cleanup. They plan to continue to do so until the town is back on its feet. 

UA members continue to help

“Due to the volume of damage, we still go up to Waverly weekly to help,” Coons said. “There have been roughly four of us from Local 572 along with TSPTA members making the trek weekly.”

In December 2021, the TSPTA donated nearly 1,500 gallons of gas to northwest Tennessee and Kentucky storm victims. Members of TSPTA raised $10,000 to provide fuel to those affected.

“It’s for heat and for people who have breathing machines who rely on them to live day to day,” Coons said about the gas playing a more significant role than just keeping the lights on.

“I am proud of our response and grateful for the UA’s assistance,” Coons said.