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New Zealand quake victims, Wisconsin unions get aid from Los Angeles

February 23, 2011 |  7:58 am

Protests in Wisconsin and the recent earthquake in New Zealand prompted some Angelenos to pack their bags and depart early Wednesday morning to those locations to help.

A group of 161 activists with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor boarded a plane headed to the capital city of Madison, Wis., to join government employees who have been fighting to maintain collective-bargaining rights.

The bus drivers, hotel workers and electricians planned to arrive Wednesday afternoon and "do whatever the folks in Wisconsin need us to do," said union spokeswoman Caroline O'Connor.

"This is about basic democratic rights of working people," she said. "And it's not just about Wisconsin. It's about the entire country."

Meanwhile, a team of 74 firefighters boarded a flight to New Zealand, where a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on Tuesday, killing at least 75 people with scores missing.

The Urban Search and Rescue Team includes firefighters, paramedics, emergency doctors, structural engineers and rescue specialists. It is the only official rescue team dispatched so far from the United States. They will join teams from other parts of the world, including Singapore and Japan.


New Zealand earthquake surprises experts with its level of destruction

-- Esmeralda Bermudez