August 31, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – This September, IUOE Local 94’s Joe Modica, foreman at Grady High School in Brooklyn, will be honored as one of LaborPress’ “Heroes of Labor.”
According to Local 94 President Kuba Brown, Modica was instrumental in helping to set the stage for the union’s groundbreaking prevailing wage win by personally testifying at an important City Council Education Committee meeting, as well as meeting with key council members.
“I started with a great boss who trained me and pushed me further,” Modica tells LaborPress. “Then I became a handyman, and in 2003, a custodian’s assistant, also known as a fireman. I worked seven-days-a-week, getting overtime, of course. When you are a fireman there is always stuff to do. It requires a lot of dedication.”
Modica’s many responsibilities also included repair work, running boilers, and overseeing porters.
The prevailing wage issue — which began in 2001 and saw independent contractors working in Board of Education buildings being paid more than custodians for doing the same work — raised Modica’s ire. He immediately knew he wanted to do something about it.
“I’d get in touch with all the union members in Local 94, and let them know what was going on,” Modica says. “Not only were we paid less, but we were also required to hold certain certificates. After our union meetings, I would speak to them and tell them that we needed to get as many votes as possible for the prevailing wage, so that we could bring it to the mayor, who we needed to get on board. He needed to see how many of us worked for the Board and what it was we did.”
Modica also testified at a City Council Education Committee meeting about the problem, where a dramatic moment emerged in the course of his testimony.
Says Modica, “I always gave it my all.”
Along with his testimony, Modica also joined with Joseph Metzer — a fireman at P.S. 207 — in speaking to individual council members, as well as to Division of School Facility members who came to union meetings and Local 32 BJ SEIU members who were also affected by the pay disparity.
The union won the fight, and the first raises came through this year.
About his nomination, Modica says, “I’m a very shy person. It’s an honor, it really is. It shows that you were recognized. I thank God for Ray Macco, Jack Redden, and Kuba Brown of Local 94. They just kept encouraging us.”