June ’13 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

A couple of months ago I was sitting in our repair department safety meeting before going into the company safety meeting and I looked around at the people gathered in the room.  The mechanics sat on one side of the desk and the apprentices on the other.  While our boss rattled off data points on performance versus time and BDP and GPS and blah, blah, blah, I wondered where all the old-timers went.

When I started at Millar and into the Schindler merger I worked service with the likes of Ron Waleri, Gene Steiner, Dave Zapeda, John Ward, Mark Mayo and Big Bill Sellers.  When I worked as a floating maintenance helper I helped almost every Millar/Schindler maintenance man in Cleveland.  If there was one I missed then it was due to the superintendent not grabbing me in time to get me out to them before they quit or retired.  I grew to appreciate them all for their unique approaches to their job and the skills they had that kept their customers happy and equipment running.  From some I learned what not to do which can be an even more important lesson than what to do in any given situation.

A couple of years ago I was talking with two other young mechanics who also worked as helpers with one of the service mechanics I helped for a period.  We all said that when we ran into a tough task we would stop and say “what would he do” or admonish ourselves with “that’s not how he would have done it.”  All three of us laughed because we knew the standard and it was set very high and we all hoped to live up to it.

So… Where are all the old timers?

On April 19th Local 17 held its annual Retiree’s Dinner at Frank Sterel’s Slovenian Restaurant.  In between my duties of taking photos for the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, and catching up with those retirees and active members I see only this one time a year, I took a count of those in attendance that I had the honor to work with even for a short period of time as a helper and those that helped me as a mechanic.  I stopped counting at 15.

All of them had stories to tell, memories to stir and laughs to be shared.

Drifting back to the meeting, it was not so much a hit from an I-beam but a subtle nudge from above that said we had become the old-timers.  We were the ones that the apprentices across from us would be looking up to and referencing for the rest of their careers just like those I worked with as a helper.  It was an awesome and sobering thought and I think every day about living up to the standard that those before us set.

I do not always know whether I measure up, but when I leave this trade, by whatever means it happens, my most sincere hope is that I will make a positive impact and leave it better than when I found it.

Till next month…

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.



May ’13 Cleveland Citizen

Brothers and sisters:

The National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) is happy to announce they are now offering an OSHA 10 class to IUEC members through their website, neiep.org.  OSHA 10 is the ten-hour course that many construction sites require in order to be able to work onsite.  It covers the history of OSHA and basic safety procedures every elevator constructor must know.  The course requires little or no computer experience and can be self-paced.  There is a refundable fee of $72 to enroll.  For more information on this and other opportunities for advanced education, go to the NEIEP website.

There is a sign-up sheet for the welding class offered in conjunction with Lincoln Electric at their world headquarters on Euclid.  This is a 40-hour class that leads to G3 and G4 certification.  If you have any questions contact Business Agent Tim Moennich at 216-431-8088 or email him at TMoennich@iueclocal17.org.

There is still time to get in on the IUEC Local 17 Golf Outing.  The two-man scramble will be held June 1st at Mallard Creek Golf Course, 34500 Royalton Road, Columbia Station.  The festivities kick off at 9:00 AM and feature a full day of golf, food and prizes.  The cost is $100 for the day.  Please get your name into Entertainment Chairman Mike Hogan or Business Agent Tim Moennich.

Lessons Learned

Congratulations to the Strongsville Education Association on ending their eight-week long strike against the Board of Education with their first contract in two years.  While many looking in from the outside might see spoiled public servants attempting to grab as much as they can at the expense of the students they say they care so much about, the issues go so much deeper than that superficial statement.

Strongsville, like many school systems, requires that teachers advance their education over and above the basic bachelor’s degree and compensates them for the time and effort.  The belief is that teachers with advanced degrees bring more value to the classroom and give a more complete and better education to their students.  In other words, if the system is loaded with masters and PhDs, their pay scale is going to be closer to the top than if most of the teachers were holding masters and below.

Strongsville has consistently ranked high in their state evaluations and the community at large supports the good work the teachers do.  The most current report card put out by the state ranked the system 97th out of the 610 public systems in Ohio and gave it an Excellent with Distinction ranking.

Unfortunately for the school system they were hit with a double whammy as decreased state aid by Governor Kasich and a decrease in property values cut into their operating budget.  State aid to the system peaked in 2010 at $21.6 million after increasing from $16.4 million in 2007.  The system took a $700,000 hit in 2011 but bounced back in 2012 with a $2.1 million increase for a total of $22.9 million in state aid.  The local revenue received peaked in 2009 at $53.1 million but decreased to $48.1 million today which is $500,000 above the 2006 levels.  Federal aid to Strongsville is off by $2 million versus the 2010 numbers.  While this looks bleak, the system is still operating with a budget that is $6.5 million over their 2007 revenue.

There are many out there that will use this as a lever to revive SB5, the failed attempt to limit public-sector collective bargaining rights, but the broader issue is union busting by the GOP lead statehouse and turning Ohio into a “Right-To-Work –For Less” state.  As has been reported previously in these pages, there are groups gathering signatures to place a measure called the “Workplace Freedom Act” that would turn collective bargaining back to the pre-NLRB days.

It is ironic that two Republican legislators , Ron Maag of Lebanon and Kristina Roegner of Hudson, introduced sister bills to turn Ohio into a Right-To-Work-For-Less state on May 1st, or as our friends in the former Soviet Union refer to it, May Day.  A day set aside to honor the working man and woman.

As a Strongsville High School graduate of too long ago to count, I think about the lesson plans that a returning striking teacher would prepare for their first class in eight weeks.  I would spend the week talking about the history of labor relations, collective bargaining and why it is as important today as it was in 1935 when the National Labor Relations Act took effect.  Then I would talk about the collective bargaining process and why it is still the best model for management-labor relations and finally using strikes as a last measure.  A lesson plan like this would put the collective bargaining process in perspective and teach a real life lesson the kids will not soon forget.

May ’13 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

As I said in my April article, we in Local 17 are blessed with having seven probationaries in our local.  At the March meeting, Business Agent Tim Moennich addressed them as they sat in on their first meeting of the local.

“In our collective bargaining agreement the probationary period has been extended to from six months to twelve.  The Executive Board decided that the probationary apprentices should attend the next six union meetings as part of their education in what it means to be a union member.

All seven are here tonight.

Welcome to what we all hope is the first meeting of what we all hope is a long career as an elevator constructor.  The International Union of Elevator Constructors as the most highly skilled membership in the building trades and we take great pride in the fact we are the highest paid trade with the best benefits in the industry.  These great benefits of health care, pension, annuity and 401 k were started by all the hard working elevator constructors that have and do now work in this great union.

You should know that the companies just do not give us these benefits. The IUEC negotiated with the companies on our behalf to secure them for past, present and future generations of elevator constructors.  To maintain them, we have a responsibility to keep up with our craft through education.  In other words, we have to continue to be the best at what we do.  This means as you start your career putting in the time and effort to be the best elevator constructor for the good of the union, your company and yourself and then keep learning through continuing education opportunities the union makes available.

To reach retirement we need to remember to be safe at all times.  This means you are responsible for your own safety and that of everyone around you.  We are being pushed by the companies to do more with less and do it faster than before but this MUST NOT result in an untimely injury or death.  You have a responsibility to yourself, your family, your friends, your company and your union to work safe.

It is OK to be proud of the company you work for.  You cannot forget that they pay your wages and allow you to practice your trade.  At the end of the day, every brother and sister in this local must be a member of Local 17 first and then an employee of their company.  Anything you get, wages, benefits, vacations, now or in the future depends on the strength of your union.  Part of the way to do this is protecting Article IV, the Work We Claim, and assisting each other in securing employment, engaging in education, brotherhood and politics.

I wish every brother and sister in the International a long and prosperous career as an elevator constructor. 

Remember, we got into this trade for a better life… not a shorter one.”

I am very pleased to report that Local 17 Business Agent Tim Moennich has been named as a trustee of NEIEP by International General President Frank Christensen.  He will be one of four union and four company representatives that will set the direction for the educational organization.

To the mechanics working with probationaries — you have a special responsibility to teach them the RIGHT and SAFE ways to work.  You are their first teachers in the trade and the impression you make will be carried with them for their careers.

Local 17 sends their condolences to the families of retired Brother Dan Tomon who passed away February 17 and Brother Keith Triner whose mother passed away.

As of this writing there are nine mechanics on the bench.

Till next month,

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety,