September ’11 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

I want to start off by thanking all the men and women of our armed forces serving here and in harms way for the sacrifices they make every day so we can enjoy the peace this land has to offer.

Remember  them every September.

I was reading General President Dana Brigham’s July Constructor article and felt the need to comment.   His article was the sharpest and most succinct summary of the challenges the International as a whole will be facing in the coming year as this contract with NEBA draws to a close.  The contract negotiations are out of the direct control of the rank and file and the Labor Committee will be guided by the resolutions submitted by the members to craft the best contract possible.  What is under our individual control is how we prepare and react to the challenges we face daily and those looming on the horizon.

Back in January, I never thought that I would be one of the brothers I report on every month as being out of work.  Since then, my life has taken some very strange twists and turns.

Things have been austere here at home as the weekly unemployment check is perhaps a quarter of my former gross.  Consequently I am without a cell phone, long distance, the life insurance policy was surrendered for cash value and groceries are cut way back.  I gave up golf as a luxury and only attended this year’s outing and Retiree’s Dinner because it is part of my job as the correspondent to cover these events.

My wife had saved enough so buying a home was, for the first time in our married lives, more than a pipe dream.  Now that down payment money is going to pay the bills that still roll in.  By the time this is in print, my 26 weeks of state benefits will be exhausted and, hopefully, Federal Extended Benefits will have kicked in to help out and my 1973 MGB will be sold to keep paying the bills.

But everything has not been doom and gloom.  I reconnected with an old friend who is going through a tough time at home and we have leaned on each other as our personal dramas play out to their conclusions.  I’ve been walking the dog through the snow and heat almost every day and have rediscovered my neighbors.

I have been writing the articles here and in the Cleveland Citizen commenting and reporting on the growing anti-unionism at the state level in Ohio and across the country.  I extended that into a blog at through-the-mill.com where I comment from time to time about events as I see them and also developed the website for Local 17.

Since April of 2010 I have been writing an article for NEIEPs Lift Magazine.  After my layoff, I completed my article and have been assisting Jon Henson and Maggie Cleveland to put the finishing touches on an issue that everyone involved can be proud to say represents the best of NEIEP and the trade.  Through NEIEP I have been in contact with the elevator equivalent of SEAL Team Six, the best of the best in our trade, and have a whole new perspective on the direction it is moving and challenges we will all face.

Could I have done all this and still been employed full-time?  Yes, but the one thing this time off has given me is perspective on my old job and where the skills I’ve accrued over the past twelve years can take me.  Do I want to get back to work?  Don’t be foolish, everyone on the bench wants to get back into the game.  Whenever it is I return and in whatever capacity it may be, the words of English poet William Ernest Henley’s immortal poem Invitus ring in my ears:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

 

Where are they working?

Ken Lenoard and Dave Burke doing a tear out at Northpoint for Edmonds,

Neil Beechuck and Bill Dudas at the VA Parma installing two holeless hydraulics for Thyssen,

Jason Faber and Joe Broz, Jr. at Coppertree doing a door mod for Thyssen,

Scott Hicks and Jn Rogers installing three 400As at the Cleveland Clinic for Schindler,

Gerard Szemerkovsky and Tony Karovich installing an elevator at the Huron Road health Center for Otis,

Jason Fredrick and Tony Kuhn doing valve work at Morgan Pump for Thyssen,

Mike Miller and Jason Sohayda installing elevators at the Cleveland Clinic Avon for Otis,

Roy Skinner, Jr. and Tom Peska doing service work for Edmonds,

Todd Ross and Terry Keating doing valve work at Philips Medical building for Kone,

Drew Williams and Jim Ehrbar doing six-car mod at Harbor Crest for Edmonds,

Matt Pinchot and Scott Villanueva doing a three-car mod at BB parking garage for Otis,

Craig Nolty and Anthony Young doing hatch cleaning at Regency Towers for Kone,

John Goggin and Ed Gimmel doing full-loads at the Rose Building for Schindler,

Gary Thompson and Jim Archer doing a mod at the W. O. Walker Building for Schindler,

Dave Brunner, Mark Byram, Dave Lehoten and Brian Owens at the casino doing a tear out for Schindler.

Condolences

Condolences go out to Brother Randy Thompson whose mother passed away July 5th and Brothers Jack and Jason Saunders whose mother and grandmother, Dolores, passed away June 21st.

As of this writing there are 25 mechanics and two apprentices out of work.

 

Till next month…

Work safe, work smart and slow down for safety.

 

Don

dknapik@windstream.net

August ’11 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

The Mechanics Review Class is now in full swing.  Preparing those apprentices sitting for the test is Rick Myers.  Just a word to those attending… the apprenticeship program and the test are not easy and are not meant to be easy.  However you approach the test and whatever your motivations are going into the test keep two things in mind.

First, the apprenticeship program and the contract that created it are amorphous.  The program we have today is not the program we may have at the start of the next contract.

Second, it is the ONLY unbiased appraisal of your knowledge of the elevator trade you will ever have.  There are too many people who survive by making their boss think they are better than they are to the detriment of their company, customers, out of work union brothers and the reputation of the union movement and the elevator trade.  If you cannot read a straight line, construction print or even a tape measure you’d better learn very fast or have an outstanding line of BS.  Bosses are smarter than you think and will eventually catch on.

The Local 17 softball team will compete in the annual Cleveland Building Trades tournament Labor Day weekend.  The tournament will be held at James Day Park immediately adjacent to the Tri-C West campus.  Look to iueclocal17.org for updated dates and times.

There are nine brothers taking part in the welding class offered through the local and taught at Lincoln Electric.  This class leads to a 3G and 4G welding certification.

Local 17 recently won a $2000 grievance from Schindler Elevator for violations of Article IV work at the UH Seidman Cancer Center.  The violations were for Schindler allowing another contractor to install flooring in the cars prior to the final acceptance.  This is in addition to the fine already paid on that job for having another contractor install machine beams and cable holes prior to pouring the machine room floors.  Gentleman, this is our work.  DO NOT give it up!

As many of you know, on May 18 KONE purchased local independent Response Elevator for an undisclosed sum.  The five field employees were told after a monthly safety meeting about the sale and are currently integrating into KONE’s Cleveland operation.

The By-laws Committee received numerous ideas for resolutions to the upcoming International Convention.  When everything was reviewed, there were four resolutions that the Local submitted to the International for consideration.  These will be combined with the resolutions of the other locals and debated on the floor to formulate the basis for the upcoming contract negotiations.  Thank you to all who submitted a resolution.

Where are they working?

Mike Miller and Nick Meyer at Huron Community Health Center installing two cars for Otis,

Bob Garman and Kevin Thomas doing a modernization at Shaker Court Condos for Thyssen,

DJ Spring and Joe Simcic installing two hydraulics at Cleveland Clinic Data Center for Otis,

John Logue, Jim Thompson, Jonathon Koch and Brian Semanko doing a mod at Key Tower for Otis,

Jeff Lindell and Anthony Young doing escalator work at the Elyria JC Penny’s for Kone,

Shawn Yatsko and Ron Wittwage doing a mod at Lakewood Professional Building for Schindler,

Bill Sellers and Jason Costa at Ashtabula County Medical Building doing a fire service layover for Schindler,

Dave Brunner and Mark Byram working in Syracuse, New York installing escalators for Schindler,

Neil Beechuk and Bill Dudas at Milkovich School installing a two-stop hydraulic for Thyssen,

Ken Hasek and Jeff Ward at 200 Public Square doing full-loads for Otis.

Condolences

The most sincere condolences go to the family of retired Brother Bob Trapp.  He was 91.

As of this writing there are 28 mechanics and three apprentices on the bench.

Till next month…

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.

Don

dknapik@windstream.net

July ’11 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

There is a lot going on. So, let’s get started….

In case you have not heard, the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, is up and running! There is a wealth of information available including links to union and signatory contractor websites, a photo gallery of past events and information on upcoming events. It is designed to be a user friendly way of keeping the local in touch with important union news from Cleveland and beyond. Please take a few minutes and check it out.

By the time you read this in July, the Mechanics Review classes will be in full swing to prepare the 23 eligible apprentices for September’s Mechanics Test. Whatever your thoughts are on taking the test, please keep in mind that everything can, and often does, turn on a dime in the ever evolving world of the apprenticeship program. When it was first initiated, the program seemed to be thrown together in a hodge-podge manner and the rules and requirements were literally changing on a weekly basis. The reason was to have NEIEP nationally recognized as the official training course for the elevator trade. It took almost two years for the changes to shake out and the program to have a consistent set of rules from one year to the next.

As a result of the wording in the contract, locals around the country have become flooded with mechanics and have apprentices shaking in their boots about their future after the test. In some instances, the day an apprentice takes out his card has become his last in the business. So what message does this send? Do you feel you have to be in fear for your job?

Fear is the emotional manifestation of evil. It is designed to break you down and make you malleable to those ingraining the fear, extinguishing the light that burns inside everyone.

If you are afraid of being a light to those around you… then leave. This business is not for the thin skinned. The truly tough, the people that truly last, in this or any business, are the ones that are fearless in the face of injustice and stand tall when all others around them bow down in subjugation.

While standing up makes you a target of fear mongers, realize that you are not alone. As our brothers in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) say “an injury to one is an injury to all.” When we all stand together, we all stand proud. We all are one local and International. We are the power of one backed by millions across the globe. United as one brother and sisterhood across all delineations fear mongers hope to divide us.

We are Union.

Rick Maron’s Uptown project at East 115th and Euclid is hitting some snags. The Cleveland Building Trades are planning on setting up several picket lines at the job. Gable is still contracted to install the elevators. While IUEC Local 17 does not have plans to set up our own lines at this time, we will support those of the other trades.

Recently, there has been a rash of members from all over the state not properly reporting in when traveling out of their jurisdiction. Several trials took place to punish these wayfarers. If you are sent out of town, or into an area that you think might belong to another local, call the BA and let them know where you are. It could save you a fine of several thousand dollars.

Condolences
The local sends its condolences to Brother Mario Malizia whose father and mother both passed away in April. The local also extends its condolences to the family of Carl Klokley who passed away May 10.

At this writing there are 29 mechanics and three apprentices off.

‘till next month,
Work smart, work safe and slowdown for safety.

Don

June ’11 Elevator Constructor Article

Brothers and sisters:

When I was a helper, I had a mechanic ask me if I was crazy after a heated exchange with another mechanic.  I responded that crazy was a medical diagnosis that we were not qualified to make.  It was meant to diffuse his caution but it supports the tenuous line invisibly walked by ourselves and those around us.

There is no doubt that the constant and increased monitoring by the companies of the every move of their employees through GPS and other means puts additional stress on an already stressful job.  What quality of service can you give to a paying customer during your six minute maintenance visit?  If my phone is ringing every forty minutes to check on my location, how much am I really able to get done?  If my boss has me under the gun to get a job in, what level of  craftsmanship can the contractor expect?

The added relationship distractions of our spouse, co-workers, children, adult parents, siblings and neighbors can feel like chains weighing us down.

Then we start second guessing ourselves.  Did I really tighten that adjustment?  Was that the right parameter?  Where are all my jumpers?  Did I do the right thing with my kids or my spouse?  Why did I yell at my neighbor for no good reason?  Is it really worth going on?

When someone in trouble does decide to step into the void, those left behind are fraught with questions that no one on this plane can answer.  All we as outsiders can do is offer support to the survivors.

This brings me to a serious point brought up at the April union meeting.  If you or someone you know is troubled or seems to show signs of being troubled, do not just walk away.  Screw GPS and tasking, turn off your phone and take the time to truly listen to what your coworker is saying.  They may be reaching out to you as a last handhold before the abyss.

We make a difference in our daily work.  That difference cannot always be measured in profit or the number of callbacks we take.  Sometimes the measure is in how we treat each other.  There have been many times I spent an extra half hour in the coffee shop or took a long lunch to listen when a coworker was troubled and that time was paid back to me when I needed it.

The point is, take the time now.  Take the time now to praise someone for a job well done.  Take the time now to constructively correct someone when needed.  Take the time now to let your loved ones know how much you care.  Take the time now to ask for forgiveness or extend understanding.  Take the time now because you do not know how much you will have.

The International offers mental health services through the National Elevator Industry Benefits Plan.  If you are having a hard time coping with a situation, please, please, please seek someone out and get help.

NEIEP is looking for contributors to Lift Magazine, its educational supplement available to all members.  The upcoming issue covers new elevator technology.  You do not need to be a professional quality writer to contribute, just having the desire to share your knowledge with others.  If you are interested in becoming part of the team of compensated Lift contributors, send your resume to Jon Henson at jhenson@neiep.org or call 508-699-2200 extension 6115.

Brother Jeff Ford’s brother Joe was recently promoted to Captain and is currently serving in Iraq.  Please keep him in your prayers.

The local sends its most sincere condolences to the families of Brother Ryan Faber who passed away on March 31st and retired Brother James Horvath who passed away on March 25th.

‘till next month,

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.

Don

dknapik@windstream.net

May ’11 Constructor Article

Brothers and sisters:

HAPPY MAY DAY!

I would like to take ask everyone reading this to take a moment and say a prayer for those that have been affected by the ongoing disaster in Japan.  The country faces an uncertain future as it deals with the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns.

In the 1940’s when my father was getting confirmed it was typical for the presiding Bishop at the end of the interaction between him and the confirmandi to give them a small slap on the face and direct them to “be prepared to defend your faith.”  Years later, my dad said that at the moment he was slapped he fell ill for almost a week.  If you have been following the twists and turns of the union-busting bills in Ohio and other states, it is clear that we, as union brothers and sisters, need to be prepared to defend our brethren.

During the past few months I have been looking for sources to keep updated on the fluid battle in which we are engaged.  Consequently I found these two great sites.  The first is from the Ohio AFL-CIO (ohaflcio.org).  The second site, and one I added to my RSS feed, is the blog from the national AFL-CIO (blog.aflcio.org).   Both sites are packed with up to date information and other links focused on the national and Ohio battle fronts against the class warfare initiated by the right.  Because I only have 650 words to keep you up to date here in the Constructor, I have set up a blog at throughthemill.wordpress.com to add commentary and analysis.

Please educate yourself on the issues and be sure you can stand on your facts when being attacked by an uninformed or misguided anti-union antagonist.  At least that way, if you get slapped you stand a chance of not becoming ill.

Even though it is coming to the end of the school year, it is still the apprentice’s responsibility to get their OJT forms in on time.  If you have not been getting your forms in on time and are three months in arrears, the JATC will be asking for an explanation.  Be prepared to justify your actions.

There are reports that a team from Akron (Local 45) was caught working in our jurisdiction without informing the hall.  This is a reminder that if you are asked to go out of the locals jurisdiction for any reason, you are required to check in with the business agent of the local in which you are working.

Where are they working?

Roy Skinner Jr. and Jeff Lindell performing safety tests at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for Kone,

Bill Sellers and Jason Costa doing a jack at Playhouse Square Parking Garage for Schindler,

Roy Skinner Sr. and Craig Nolty doing a three-car mod at Tudor Arms for Kone,

Gerard Szemerkovsky and Tony Karovich installing two four-stop elevators at Carrington Court for Otis,

Jim Thompson and Tom Kelly doing a two-car mod at the Hyatt Hotel Rockside fro Otis,

Matt Haussler and Terry Keating doing a jack job at Surf Side Towers for Kone,

Bob Garman and Kevin Thomas doing service work for Thyssen,

Neil Beechuk and Bill Dudas installing three two-stop holeless hydraulics at CMHA Administration building for Thyssen,

Dave Brunner and Jim Archer doing a two-car mod at Campbell Court for Schindler,

Ken Bowles and Jason Sohayda doing a mod at Euclid Hospital for Otis,

Tom Gombar and Dave Drnak cabling at the Hamptons for Response,

Gary Thompson and Chris Wyatt doing a three-car mod at W.O. Walker building for Schindler,

Scott Hicks and Mark Byram finishing a punch list at UH Cancer Center for Schindler,

As of this writing there are 24 mechanics and two apprentices off work.

Till next month…

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety,

Don

dknapik@windstream.net

April ’11 Constructor Article

Brothers and sisters:

Is it clear why it is important to elect labor friendly candidates?  Cairo moved to Madison as the Republican governor tried to legislate what he could not negotiate and Governor Kasich is standing on the same precipice as his Wisconsin counterpart.  If you did not get the March issue of the Cleveland Citizen or read my article, please go to my blog at through-the-mill.com and read the post “Cairo Comes to Madison” discussing the situation as of March 1.

Please read it!

As of this writing, there are 31 members off.  How many of these brothers and sisters would be working if everyone was vigilant about protecting Article IV work?  Article IV is the part of the contract that spells out the work that is to be performed by the Elevator Constructor and it is very detailed about the work we claim.  Some of the points seem archaic, like references to steam, belt, compressed air and hand powered elevators but others, like the use of fiber optics speak to the present and future of the trade.

Every year the International wins case after case of Article IV violations by the companies and every year we in the field find reasons to let some of these blatant violations pass unchecked.

Also, do not forget Article VIII which spells out one-man and team repair work.  This is an area that the companies have exploited to our disadvantage and we need to be ever more aggressive at protecting.  Their corporate officers and our elected leadership signed the contract.  We need to be sure the companies live up to their end.  We do.

With the spring semester in full swing, here is a reminder that apprentices can only miss two classes per semester and those classes must be made up before the final exam.  Look to these pages and the Citizen for makeup dates.  Rick Myers has 16 mechanics in the hydraulic controller theory and troubleshooting class that is currently underway.  He will also be teaching an OSHA 10 class that gives you a card allowing you to work on sites that require OHSA 10 training.

The annual Retiree’s Dinner will be held on April 15th at Frank Sterle’s, 1401 East 55th Street.  As always, cocktails are served at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30.

The easiest thing to do is sit around and complain.  We all do it, don’t lie.  We complain about our jobs, our bosses, our customers, spouses, helpers, mechanics, blah, blah, blah.  How often do you take the initiative to make a positive change?  Honestly?  You have an opportunity to make an impact on the trade by submitting your ideas for the contract or by-laws for our delegates to take to the 30th General Convention in Orlando this August.  This is a real opportunity for everyone to make their voice heard on the future of the trade.  The deadline for submissions to the International is May 31st so get your ideas to Tim ASAP.

Where are they working?

Dave Hess and Joe Broz repairing water damage at the Pinnacle Building for Thyssen,

John Goggin and Ed Gimmel at EMH doing machine work for Schindler,

Jason Fredrick and Anthony Metcalf doing a mod at Villa Mars at West 70th and Detroit for Thyssen,

Neil Beechuk and Bill Dudas at the Heritage Office Building doing a three-stop mod for Thyssen,

Matt Pinchot and Scott Villanueva doing service work for Otis,

Denny Dixon, Bob Myers, Terry Keating and Tim Narowitz at the Art Museum for Kone,

Matt Weingart, Jim Archer, John Brunner, Scott Hicks, Dave Brunner, Mark Byram and Taurus Ogletree finishing up UH Caner Center for Schindler.

Condolences go out to Mark and John Ondich whose mother, Elaine, passed away February 4th.

As of this writing, there are 28 mechanics and three apprentices off.

‘till next month,

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.

Don

Dknapik@windstream.net