Editor’s Note: This past week, a rough draft of this story mistakenly appeared in print. We regret the error. Here is the edited version.
New York, NY – Local One Elevator Constructors have been crucial to the shaping of New York and New Jersey’s skylines for over a century. The union represents about 3,200 members living and working across the five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County and New Jersey. Their trained and certified members specialize in installing, servicing, repairing and modernizing elevators, escalators and other conveyances.
Like workers across other impacted sectors of the economy, Local One Elevator Constructors have been grappling with the global Coronavirus pandemic head-on. LaborPress spoke with a union organizer, a rank & file member, as well as a working partner to try and sort out just what the ongoing criss has meant for workers and the jobs at hand.
“Elevator construction had to be shut down due to the pandemic,” says Local One Organizer Brian Houser. “There was a time when some members were out of work. Now, we are back at full employment. We feel lucky, in that some of the other trades’ members are still out of work. Fortunately, for us, elevators are vital for any city that has high-rise buildings.”
Local One workers were also able to obtain vital PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
“Initially, there was a shortage across the country, and it was very tough for companies to secure it. But the companies [we worked with] did a great job,” Houser says. “Mark Gregorio, [president of] TEI, a company we work with, did a great job of getting and donating ten thousand masks to Local One. We also had hand sanitizers and face shields obtained by signatories.”
Local One member Christopher Jaccirino entered the industry in 2003 as an apprentice.
“After the mechanic finishes building the elevator, I put the cars into service for the public by doing the fine tuning,” he explains.
Jaccirino was also involved in early brainstorming sessions on how to combat COVID-19 spread, which included things like limiting the number of people allowed to ride in elevator cars and the implementation of foot-activated call buttons. All the same, he lost work.
“I was out for roughly five weeks,” he says. “Then Cuomo put a ban on new construction on all non-essential buildings.This was about the second week of March. Although the construction department was out, other departments were still open, as maintenance was considered essential.”
Jaccirino was also very appreciative that PPE was made available, and stresses that the union stepped up to help out is members by making these supplies available.
Gregorio says of Jaccirino and his work, “Chris came to work for TEI Group in 2003 after his father (for whom I worked under as a young technician) mentioned Chris would be looking for a job soon. Dominic Jaccarino, if you are reading this, you can be proud that your son carries on the tradition of hard work, integrity, and the generosity to teach the many skills he has acquired over almost two decades. He is truly a master of his craft.”
Still, working during the pandemic worried Jaccirino.
“The hardest part is, I have a wife and a young kid. My wife was working from home. I was going to work and then coming back to the house – [I thought], what’s the point of them quarantining? I tried to be careful, not taking mass transit and car pooling, bringing my lunch to try to limit interaction with other people.”
Sam Sloane is President of the BOCA Group, a vertical transportation firm that recently partnered with Local One Elevator Constructors.
“I wanted to be part of Local One as far as training mechanics who wanted to transition to inspector, and to stay in the industry in a far less physical capacity,” he says. “They can stay in the union and still get benefits, still get the same pay.”
This agreement to join forces couldn’t have come at a better time, since workers now have more options.
“We’re also educating these guys on the codes and safety,” Sloane says. “Before, they just focused on installing.”
With the rise of COVID-19, there are new air cleaning technologies that BOCA is excited about exploring, such as ionic cleaning.
“All elevators must have some kind of ventilation,” Sloane explains. “Ionic [cleaning] is pulling out the air through an approved device at the car-top. It takes the particles out, processes them out through the UV light, then puts them back into the elevator. There are a ton of these products out there now.”
Lenny Legotte, Local One President/Business Manager, says, “Local One knows our members — like other hard-working men and women across the country, they have been facing a range of hardships over the last six months. In the elevator industry, there are a vast number of risks a mechanic and apprentice faces each day in addition to COVID-19 risks. Local One members know that proper training and implementation of robust safety measures are paramount to keeping not only themselves safe — but also the riding public. Local One will always protect our members. Local One will always train our brothers and sisters to be the best trained workers. We will not fail their families, loved ones, or the riding public.”