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State employees help member devastated by Oso mudslide

The following report appears in the latest edition of the Washington State Employee newsletter produced by the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28:

(April 28, 2014) — Shortly after the jetliners hit the twin towers in New York City, not long after the levees burst in New Orleans after Hurricane Katina and right after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, public employees ran back into harm’s way to rescue, recover, reassure. The same is true in the wake of the devastating March 22 mudslide in Oso, Snohomish County. The entire nation mourned.

oso-strongFrom the first, state employees were there — from Department of Transportation crews along a buried Highway 530 to second responders like Naselle Youth Camp Local 2263 member and shop steward Victoria Nanney, accompanying a crew of juvenile rehabilitation youth to serve food to emergency responders. But sadly, like the earlier tragedies in other parts of the country, the Oso landslide hit the Federation family in a personal way, too.

Community Corrections member Darron Bowerman of Spokane Local 1221 lost six members of his family in the landslide: his mother, JuDee Vandenburg; stepfather, retired Airway Heights Corrections Center Correctional Officer Lou Vandenburg; brother, Shane Ruthven; sister-in-law, Katie Ruthven; and the Ruthvens’ two children, Hunter (age 6) and Wyatt (age 4). As of April 15, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office had identified 37 victims as officially confirmed dead, including five from the Bowerman family. One nephew, 4-year-old Wyatt, was still among those listed as officially missing (as of press time April 15).

This union, the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME, has set up the Bowerman Family Fund to help with expenses. At press time, several WFSE/AFSCME locals had contributed and more are coming in (all will be acknowledged). The contributions included: $411 from Shoreline Local 341; $1,000 from State Community Corrections Local 308 in King County; and another $1,000 from Centralia-Chehalis Local 862, which issued a challenge to all other Federation locals to meet or  beat their contribution.

MAKE A CONTIBUTION — Through the Washington State Labor Council’s Foundation for Working Families, the Federation has set up an account for the Bowerman Family to help with expenses. Donations to the account should be made out to the Foundation for Working Families and please note that you want your donation to be disbursed to the Bowerman Family. You can mail the donation to WFSE  at 1212 Jefferson St. SE, Suite 300, Olympia, WA, 98501. You can also mail a check directly to the Foundation for Working Families at 314 First Ave West, Seattle, WA, 98119, and indicate that it is a contribution to the Bowerman Family Fund.

In an April 7 meeting with the union, Gov. Jay Inslee “repeatedly asked us to thank our members” for all they’ve done to help the victims and survivors of the mudslide, said WFSE/AFSCME President Sue Henricksen. In a remarkable gesture, the governor the next day sent an e-mail to all state employees detailing all they’d done for the Oso relief and recovery efforts.

“’Thank you’ isn’t enough,” Inslee wrote. We’re devoting the rest of this page to excerpts from the governor’s public acknowledgement of state employees’ contributions in this crisis. It’s what public employees do. It’s what Washington state workers do. It’s what members of this state employees union do.

Dear fellow state employees,

The tragic mudslide in Oso has resulted in indescribable loss for the people of Snohomish County. But in the midst of this trying time, they have also seen an indescribable outpouring of support from the people of Washington and from around the country. It’s making a difference, not just in the ability of search and rescue teams to do their jobs but in the spirits of the men, women and children of Oso, Arlington and Darrington.

You are a part of that. You have delivered in ways above and beyond what I could have ever imagined.

Employees from nearly every state agency have contributed more than $56,000 to the Combined Fund Drive’s Mudslide Relief Campaign, resources that are helping provide food, shelter, and other support services for the volunteers, rescue teams and victims. But financial assistance is just the tip of the iceberg. In speaking with my agency directors and being on the ground in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington, I’ve learned that there are dozens of ways “big and small” that you and your colleagues across state government are helping the people of Oso and beyond. Each of those efforts deserves recognition. If I’ve missed some-thing your agency is doing, I’d love to hear from you. I’m immensely proud to be governor of a state that so quickly rallies around those in need, and to work with employees who care so deeply for the people they serve. Thank you isn’t enough, but those are the only words I have. Keep doing what you’re doing. It matters.

Very truly yours, Jay Inslee

See the entire Washington State Employee report to read Gov. Inslee’s list of state agencies and employees and their contributions to helping the communities of Oso and Darrington and the victims of the horrific mudslide.

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