October 22, 2016
By Steven Wishnia
Lake Success, NY – “I’ve been around the Teamsters all my life,” says Tommy Gesualdi, president of Local 282 since 2009. His grandfather John was the local’s 23rd member when it was founded in 1915 as the Building Teamsters Union, representing teamsters who hauled concrete to construction sites in horse-drawn wagons, and his father was a Teamsters official.
Today, Local 282 has 4,500 members in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey. It has 250 members at the U.S. Foods facility in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, he says, but most work in heavy and high-rise construction, driving dump trucks and delivering ready-mix concrete, lumber, and plumbing supplies. “We can deliver to all five boroughs in one day,” he says.
Gesualdi, 56, was born in Brooklyn and joined Local 282 in 1982, after five years as an aircraft-factory mechanic. He worked mostly on high-rise building sites, became a business agent in 1996, and rose to secretary-treasurer two years later. He also serves on the executive boards of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, the Long Island Federation of Labor, and Teamsters Joint Council 16. The father of two grown daughters—one of whom followed him into the construction industry, as an engineer—he lives with his wife in Nassau County, where he is active in charitable organizations.
His two biggest priorities for the union are stopping the incursion of nonunion work in residential construction and preserving pension and health benefits. The instability of stocks over the last decade makes managing pension-fund investments much harder, he explains, and rising medical costs make it harder to win and maintain good health coverage.
“Benefits never were an issue years ago. They were a gimme,” he says. “It’s not a gimme any more.” As for protecting the union share of construction jobs, he adds, “we’ve got our work cut out for us.”