2021 USW Cares, District 4 Jefferson Award Winner, Mayra Rivera

Mayra Rivera has been the President and Women of Steel Coordinator for Local Union 8198, which represents municipal employees in Ponce, Puerto Rico, since 2014. In 2013, a working day reduction of the public sector affected more than 1,500 family-supporting employees, some USW members, with layoffs or 20-30 hour work reductions.

This was Rivera’s first fight. She organized protests, got the attention of media, and stood up for working people and their families, eventually taking legal action and seeking justice in court. In 2015, Rivera created her first food delivery campaign for hundreds of parents who in many cases did not have any salary because of the reduction in their workday.

Then, when Hurricane Maria devasted all of Puerto Rico in 2017, including Rivera’s own family farm, she started an alliance with community leaders to bring supplies, support and hazard education to Southern Puerto Rico. In 2018, Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC) coaches arrived in Puerto Rico to conduct health and safety training for USW members and the community and Rivera volunteered.

Rivera has continued the work of TMC ever since, traveling all over Southern Puerto Rico as part of a specialized Rapid Response group of TMC for hazard relief and education. When disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes strike, not only does she bring donations, PPE, food, and supplies from the USW, FEMA, the Red Cross and other charities to the community, but she speaks to crowds about how to properly deal with things like mold and its effects on people’s health.

Rivera leads at least one hazard preparation and response training a week, traveling to different communities across Southern Puerto Rico, bringing water filters, lamps, LED lights, and batteries. She has also built a strong partnership with community leader Carmen Pacheo, who helps get Rivera supplies and donations to distribute to the community.

Much of Puerto Rico’s community has not recovered from Hurricane Maria, and people are suffering through and preparing for more disaster. Rivera will continue to educate people about disaster preparation and response, helping to rebuild a still-recovering Peurto Rico.

When asked about the labor movement, Rivera simply said, “I love it. If it wasn’t for the USW, I wouldn’t know the people I know now. I wouldn’t be doing the work I do now.”

For her commitment to standing up for working people and for supporting her community through natural disaster, Mayra Rivera is District 4’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner. 

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