Brothers and sisters,
As I write this at the beginning of September, the delegates of the 30th General Convention are gathered in Orlando working on the framework for improvements to the International and setting the table for the contract negotiations which will surely be starting soon. These delegates have a difficult job to balance the long term interests of the International with the interests of the locals they represent and the unique economic situation each has at home.
Presently in Cleveland we are hovering at a membership of about 240 with 24 members on the bench. While 24 does not sound like a large number to locals like New York, Boston, Chicago or LA it represents ten percent of our membership and many of them qualify for dues relief because of the length of their unemployment. Many of these long-term unemployed have chosen to withdraw and find another career path.
The three large projects (Horseshoe Casino, Medical Mart and Flats East Bank) each represent opportunities for members to return to the trade and the fourth project, the permanent casino on Collision Bend, adds another chance to clear the bench. Because of different factors it is unlikely that these projects will have the desired bench clearing effects. It is also unlikely that new routes will be added by any of the NEBA companies at least during the rest of this contract.
This is the microcosm that the International finds itself in the months leading up to the contract.
As a result of my current situation highlighted in last month’s article, I have had the opportunity to speak with people in a number of different industries. They are, almost to a man, positive about their long term outlook and have more work than they know what to do with. So this begs the question: what are the NEBA companies doing wrong?
Part of the answer is the high vacancy rate in commercial real estate where property owners are reluctant to do anything when their buildings are only half occupied at best. The counter to that argument is that when the building is vacant it is the best time to reimagine the possibilities and position it for the eventual rebound. The one bright spot is that apartment buildings have high occupancy rates while homes are being foreclosed. People have to live somewhere. NEBA companies can capitalize on these trends by pushing modernizations and the “greening” of buildings with new technologies that decrease overall elevator operating costs and increase uptime.
The best time for sales is when the economy is down. The salesman’s presence in front of the customer, giving them solutions to their needs builds the necessary rapport that allows the customer to make the leap to improving their situation. Maybe the NEBA companies need to hire better salesmen?
I wish I had answers to the questions that are swirling around the trade. Unfortunately, even in my very modest position in the local, do not have the insight into the deepening complexities as contract time approaches. The one thing that I do know is that the leadership gathered in Orlando represents the best minds of the trade and where several hundred good minds are gathered great things can arise.
I am truly confident that the International will come out stronger from this convention than when it went in.
Even though this is October, I hope that everyone took an opportunity to do two things this past month; remember the 2995 that died on September 11th and say thank you to someone that has been selflessly serving in the military. I know several members have family serving and I want to say thank you to all of them and let them know that everyone at home prays for their safe return.
Till next month…
Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.