So far, the general feedback is construction is happy to resume in New York City. Of course the safety guidelines have been met with varying opinions. As someone working in the field, I have seen appropriate signage placed in freight areas of construction floors. There are sanitizing stations set up and work crews have been organized to comply with the guidelines of one worker per every 250 sq.ft.

Most workers have no issues with wearing a mask; however, the common opinion is masks can be uncomfortable. Some workers have mentioned feeling claustrophobic and some say the masks can become a distraction.
Local 638 member Jason Lasanta agrees the masks are uncomfortable. Lasanta said, “I think everyone should wear a mask until we get a vaccine.” Lasanta continued, “When things first started the masks were uncomfortable but I got used to it.”

PPE and social distancing has been enforced at organized job sites. Andrew S. is a Local 638 Steamfitter that stated, “Masks are mandatory on every single jobsite. By wearing your mask you are protecting yourself and the people working around you.” This is the benefit of organized labor. There are non-union shops that have been less than compliant.
“Most of them are not wearing protection because their bosses don’t care about cheap workers and they are not providing safety education and proper PPE for them,” explained the longtime Steamfitter.

As a watch engineer of a commercial office building in Midtown’s Eastside, I can attest to the difference between organized and unorganized job sites. There is a clear difference in the attention to safety and Covid -19 safety guidelines. Although New York is a “Right to work” state, compliance is necessary.

The common opinion among union trades is we are working to reopen our city. The only way to reopen safely is to remain unified and organized. After more than 119,000 deaths in the U.S due to Covid-19 and with 446,000 deaths worldwide, safety compliance cannot be negotiated. Put simply, cheap labor and quick shortcuts is not the way to reopen our city and boost the economy.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of IUOE Local 94, as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at


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