January Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

The New Year is a time for making promises of all sorts.  Some we intend to keep others we know we won’t.  Regardless of whether you really will quit smoking, dust off the stationary bike or lose that spare tire, make one of your resolutions be to always keep those that are less fortunate in your thoughts, prayers and actions.  There are many who suffer in lonely silence all year and are only remembered at this time.  Sometimes all it takes is saying hello or taking a few minutes to chat.  You never know what good you can do until you try.

At the Tri-State meeting, President Christensen reported that Jim Higgins resigned his position as Assistant General President and will be working as a regional director and organizer.  He was replaced by Jim Bender, a regional director from Local 19 (Seattle).   Immediately on Christensen’s to-do list is updating the office computers, grievance tracking system and the Journal.  He also emphasized that the International will do a better job communicating Article IV violations and said that if a job print says “work by others” and it is our work, just do it.

Here is a little tidbit that mirrors the nation as a whole.  In 1996 the IUEC had seven members working for every one retiree.  That ratio is now two to one.

The organizers reported that non-union Oracle Elevator had the contract at OSU and lost it after we placed there two best mechanics in Local 34 (Indianapolis).  As a result, Oracle is having a hard time doing business in Columbus.  Congratulations to those two mechanics for joining us.  When you talk to your former workmates show them the back of your card and all the benefits you receive for being a member of the best trade in the trades.  It is truly an eye opening experience.

Schindler employees are being advised NOT to sign the company’s vehicle policy.  There is a DMV form which has been approved by the International.

Every year St. Colman’s Church on West 65th has a St. Colman’s Day celebration and this year they honored the Cleveland building trades unions.  Representing Local 17 was former local vice-president, JATC board member and instructor Jim Ross.

Thinking about it, there are far few people that can better represent Local 17 than Jim.  His effervescent personality and ability to light up a room with his humor are legendary.  Many reading this owe their success to Jim.  Whether it was working with him in the field, talking with him over a cup of cardboard brown coffee, bringing a friend with him to the Labor Day Softball Tournament or seeing him work in the classroom, Jim Ross is in that small class of Constructors who truly made and continue to make a positive contribution to the trade.  Thank you.


Where are they working?

Joe Broz Jr. and Doug LaFontaine doing brake work at Indian Hills for Thyssen,

Don Knapik and Eric Cossgrove replacing door sills at UH Lot 61 for Schindler,

Jason Faber and Cory Sanchez doing service work at Lake Park Towers for Thyssen,

Darrell Scislo and Max Destotell doing full-load tests at Parma Police Station for Otis,

Jim Archer and Ryan Todd doing a mod at the Huntington Bank Building in Berea for Schindler,

John Brunner and Jim Rogers installing a four-stop hydro at Emerald Alliance for Schindler,

Kevin Thomas and Pat McCann installing a hydro at Maisley’s Dairy for Thyssen,

Bill Sellers and John Hofstetter doing service work for Schindler,

Ron Wittwage and Taurus Ogletree installing a three-stop hydro at Lorain County Community College for Schindler,

Tom Gombar and Dave Francis doing a jack at Terrace House for Kone.


As of this writing there are two apprentices on the bench.


Till next month,

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.




December ’12 Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

As I write this, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy is being assessed, families are being reunited and the cleanup is just beginning by a devastated and numb east coast.  I can speak for everyone in Local 17 by wishing our brothers and sisters who stood in the way of the storm and their families are safe.

At the height of the storm I was called out to a sixteen-story downtown office building.  In order to access the machine room I had to cross 30 feet of roof.  Because I was about 180 feet in the air and the wind was blowing between the surrounding buildings, the sustained 65 mph winds and 85 mph gusts were accelerated to God knows how fast.  I opened the stairwell door and looked out onto what can only be described as a simultaneously amazing and horrifying site.

The pure, unbridled power of the storm literally in my face.

An access door across the roof hung on a single hinge.  A vent cap blew left to right and over the 180 foot parapet.  I felt my feet turn to lead and my knuckles turn white as I held the handle in a death grip.  I contemplated for a long moment going out into the melee when the wind slammed the door in my face.  The howling on the other side was greater than several freight trains roaring up a steep grade.

Over the years I have read several books about high altitude climbers swept off mountains and to their deaths by high winds.  I thought again about braving the storm.  Making my way to the ladder secured to the machine room, holding on to the conduit strapped to the outside to get to the door and then completing the circuit back.   Ultimately I decided that being swept off the top of a building was not the way I wanted to be remembered.  I called the superintendent and he agreed that cooler heads needed to prevail.

The customer would have to wait out the storm.

The December and January meetings are mandatory meetings for the election and installation of officers.  At the December meeting there will be a vote on an additional $10 increase of the dues in addition to the $10 requested by the Treasurer and Trustees.

Congratulations to Ed Gimmel, Ryan Foley, Nick Meyer and Chris Wyant for passing the Mechanics Exam.  Remember that this is just the beginning of a long and very rewarding career.  Do not allow yourself be pushed to finish a job quickly rather than safely.

Where are they working?

Tim Narowitz and Dave Adrian doing a mod at Quarrytown in Berea for Thyssen,

Mike Miller and Joe Gouker installing a freight car at Nestles for Otis,

Darrell Scislo and Maxwell Desotell doing service work for Otis,

Jim Archer and Ryan Todd doing a one-car mod at Huntington Bank Berea for Schindler,

John Logue, Ken Hasek, Scott Villanueva, Craig Haller, Jason Saunders, Tim Gibbons and Steven Keating working at Key Tower for Otis,

Ron Wittwage and Taurus Ogletree installing a three-stop hydro at Lorain Community College for Schindler,

Jim Thompson and Jonathan Koch installing an elevator at Metro South Parking Garage for Otis,

Al Ward, Jason Sohayda, Ric Supinski and Lucas Jenke installing cars at Fairview Hospital for Otis,

Todd Kemp and Ken Leonard installing a Life Jacket at Chestnut Lake Apartments for Edmonds,

Dennis Dixon and Fran Adams doing a mod at Moreland Courts for Kone.


As of this writing, everyone who wants to work is working.


Till next month…


Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.




October ’12 Cleveland Citizen

Brothers and sisters:

My bicycle Murray and I made it to South Bend, Indiana.  Along that 242 mile journey I learned a couple of things about heading west: there is a reason the winds are called PREVAILING westerly’s, America is primarily made up of corn and soybeans (with the occasional fruit orchard thrown in for flavor), even on places that on the map look desolate, there are farm houses, every one of those farm houses has a dog and every one of them thinks they are a Rottweiler.  Anyway, it was an interesting adventure that I will be sharing soon enough with a much wider audience.  Stay tuned for further information.

There is a lot going on so I will get right to it….

IUEC Local 17 currently has nine probationary apprentices added to the local, seven by Otis and two by Schindler.  They joined the apprentices waiting for the mechanics exam in classes on Wednesday night.  Seven of the fourth –year apprentices that were eligible to sit for the mechanics exam took the test.  To those I have to say that the mechanics exam is the only unbiased measure of your knowledge you will ever have on this business.  Most of what others perceive we know comes second or third hand and is rarely accurate.  I will have the names of those that passed next month.

Sign up is available for an OSHA 10 class.  Most people working construction or mod know that often times the general contractor requires at the very least an OSHA 10 card.  Soon, many sites will require the advanced OSHA 30 card in order to work on site.  The OSHA 10 class is a ten-hour class covering the history of OSHA and touches on all aspects of construction site safety.  Please contact Business Agent Tim Moennich for dates and further information.

I am also encouraging everyone to go to the NEIEP website, neiep.org, to participate in the online continuing educational opportunities that NEIEP has available.  Classes like rigging and signaling are available as well as interactive labs of all descriptions.  I recently had the pleasure of visiting the NEIEP headquarters and can tell you first hand that they are ramping up several new online and lab-oriented offerings.

The continuing education offered is how we keep our work.  Get educated and keep working.

The Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund has a video about its Qualified Elevator Inspector Program (QEI).  Work Preservation is the organization that works on safety-related issues for both the IUEC members and its signatory companies.  There is an opening for a QEI inspector in Hawaii and the State of Ohio is looking for two inspectors for the Northeast Ohio area.  For more information, contact Tim at 431-8088.

Frank Christensen, International Vice-President out of Chicago’s IUEC Local 2, was elected by the General Executive Board to fill the vacancy created by the resignation and retirement of Dana Brigham.  Congratulations to Brother Christensen and may he lead in example and wisdom.

The new contract requires that we take 20 vacation days a year.  Even though there was a 15-day requirement at the start of this year and through the first half until the new contract took effect in July, the new contracts 20-day requirement takes precedence.  Be sure you have all of your time in or be prepared to visit the Executive Board.

The November 9, December 14 and January11 meetings are required mandatory special meetings for all members for the nomination, election and installation of officers.  There will be no excuses accepted for non-attendance.

In case you have not noticed, this is a political year.  Starting August 1, IUEC members can voluntarily contribute to the National Elevator Constructors Political Action Committee (NEC-PAC).  You can contribute as little as five or ten cents per hour or any amount you would like.  There is an authorization form in the back of the new contract book.  If you have any questions, again, please contact Tim.

IUEC Local 17 sends its most sincere condolences out to the families of Joe Udovic and John Sutter, also known as Santa, both of which passed away in July.  Both of them will be missed.

As of this writing there are nine out-of-towners working in IUEC Local 17.




Obama-Romney, Brown-Mandel, Rennaci-Sutton… it does not take a lot of insight to realize that this is a political year.  The slings and arrows flying back and forth in this carousel of outrageous fortune make even the most ravenous political junkie long for a methadone clinic.  All of them are playing a game of percentages.  Please read on and I will explain.

What everyone involved in politics knows, and is immediately transferable to your daily life, is there are three types of people you will meet.  There are those that will follow you to the Gates of Hell and thank you for taking them there, there are those that would not spit on you if you were on fire and, finally, everyone in between.

Think about this for a moment.  If you break it down in simple math, one out of every three people falls into one of those categories, but on a finer examination we discover that instead of the few that may fall into the extremes, most everyone falls closer to the middle.  When a political campaign begins, there is an extreme effort to identify those on both ends and tailor the message to maximize those in the first group and enough of the last to counter the influence of the second.  This is the struggle every organization faces.  A practical and very timely example is Apple and their release of new products.  There are people that will sit outside for hours waiting for the doors to open to be the first to buy the iPhone 5, for example, and those that will wait until their current contract is up to upgrade.  There are those that are sufficiently upset with Apple’s privacy policies or have a negative view of the company in general to never buy an Apple product ever.  Apple does not need to reach these people, their minds are made up.  This is why they keep advertising to convince the rest of us to pay $300 for the 32 Gig version.

Throughout the current campaign, Governor Romney has steadfastly refused to release any more tax returns than for the 2010 and 2011 tax years.  He recently released his 2011 tax return and claimed an income of $13.7 million and paid $1.9 million in taxes, an effective tax rate of 13.8%.  He also claimed $2.25 million in charitable deductions.  Had he claimed the full $4.0 million he and his wife donated his effective rate would have been about 9 percent.  For 2010 Romney’s income was $21.7 million and he paid an effective rate of 13.9 %.  The accounting firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, who handle the Romney’s taxes, released a statement that his annual effective tax rate for the past 20 years is 20.2%

I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.
–Mitt Romney, interviewed by David Muir of ABC News, 7/29/12

Over the years the Hispanic population of the United States has risen dramatically, particularly in the southwest because of the proximity to Mexico, Central and South America.  In 2010 the Pew Research Center did a study of the Latino electorate.  They found that nationally they are 16.3% of the population and 10.1% of the eligible voters but only seven percent of the actual voters who come to the polls.  Over the years many presidential candidates and presidents have courted the Hispanic vote by promising everything from immigration reform to amnesty for illegals.

In 1986 Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to 2.9 million illegal immigrants provided they entered the country prior to 1982.  He even presided over a swearing-in ceremony for several hundred largely Latino illegals.  The hoped for result was for these newly minted Americans to vote Republican like the emancipated blacks after the Civil War.  This did not stop Hispanics from moving to the Democratic side of the aisle.  In a recent Pew study on Hispanic voting trends, 68 percent of registered Hispanic voters preferred Obama over 23 percent for Romney.

“My heritage, my dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan, was the head of a car company, but he was born in Mexico. Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this.  But, he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico; they lived there for a number of years. I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

–Mitt Romney to a gathering of Latinos on his Mexican heritage.

So what does this all mean?  Well, based on his comments, Governor Romney has a lot of explaining to do to the Americans he hopes to lead as President Romney.  First he needs to explain why being Latino would be an advantage for him to those that already are.  He then needs to explain why he did not take all the charitable contributions he was allowed to take on his 2011 taxes.  Since, by his own words, he is not qualified to be President because he paid more taxes than were legally due.

And when he is done explaining all this to the American people, he can turn to his donors and explain to them why he will only garnered 47 percent of the vote and who those voters were.

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.— Mitt Romney at a private fund raising gathering.




Softballers Bounced From Trades Tourney

The IUEC Local 17 softball team was bounced on Friday from the annual Cleveland Building Trades Labor Day Softball Tournament held at Parma’s James Day Park.

Local 17’s Rich Kemp pitches to a tough Pipefitters 120 team at the 2012 Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Labor Day Softball Tournament.

The team lost their first game to the IBEW 38 B team by a score of 14 to 4.  In the consolation game they beat a scrappy Pipefitters 120 team 20 to 8.  When they met the Laborers Local 1099 team as the sun was setting and the full moon rising, they ran out of gas.  The 1099 team out hit and out ran them to a 20 to 10 victory.

The tournament is sponsored every year by the building trades on the Thursday before Labor Day and runs through Saturday nights’ championship for the A and B flights.

2012 IUEC Local 17 softball team at the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Softball Tournament

May ’12 Cleveland Citizen

Brothers and sisters:

The major news at the April union meeting was the unanimous passage of the upcoming contract between the IUEC and NEBA by the locals at the ratification meeting held April 12th in Baltimore.  Our delegates, Dennis Dixon, John Driscoll, Jr. and Brian McTaggart and led by Business Agent Tim Moennich, literally returned from the ratification meeting minutes before the local’s union meeting.

Unlike the last contract there were no major points of contention and our givebacks were minimal at best.  The companies also made concessions and eliminated the “three strikes” language which caused a flooding of mechanics to the International escalating the unemployment situation around the country.  As I said previously, the International and NEBA are to be commended for quickly coming to an agreement that allows everyone in the IUEC to do what we do best… provide the best elevator and escalator service to our customers.

June 2nd is the annual golf outing being held this year at Mallard Creek Golf Club, 34500 Royalton Road, Columbia Station.  Tee-off time is 9 am and the cost is $90.  This includes cart, 18 holes of golf with food and refreshments at the turn and afterword.  As always, it will be a two-man scramble format.  So find a partner and join in on what is always a very good time whether you play golf or not.

The July 13th union meeting, besides being our second one held this year on a Friday the 13th, is our first IUEC Local 17 Bike and Car Night.  After the regular meeting, there are refreshments and food planned for everyone that wants to bring their classic or new-classic car or bike and enjoy some great food, drink and swap gear-head stories.  I will be there with Bridget, my ’73 MGB, taking pictures for the Constructor and our local website, iueclocal17.org.  Everyone takes joy in their restoration project or preserving a small piece of transportation history.  Come and share the pride in your ride.


In Union There is Strength

A father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarrelling among themselves.  When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion and for this purpose he told them to bring him a bundle of sticks.

When they had done so, he placed the bundle into the hands of each of them in succession and ordered them to break it into pieces.  They tried with all their strength and were unable to do it.  He then opened the bundle, took the sticks out separately, one by one, and again put them into his son’s hands upon which they broke each of them easily.

“My sons, if you are of one mind and unite to assist each other you will be like this bundle, uninjured by all attempts of your enemies, but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”

From Aesop’s Fables


With St. Patrick’s Day 2012 a memory, I want to write about a conversation I had with a family member of a union brother.  Her name is not important but her message is.

After the parade, we met at a traditional after-party at one of downtown Cleveland’s fine hotels.  From the 10th floor we could watch the end of the event with its marching units, floats and finally the cleanup crew.  She is a veteran of the day, being of Irish heritage and participating for several years as a child whose father worked in the trades.

I asked her about her impressions.

“You know what I saw down there?”  She paused for effect and said “families.”

“I saw families coming together and enjoying the day. I saw mothers and fathers creating memories for their children and do you know the best part?”  Her voice rose in anticipation of her next point.  “They were not all Irish!”  She went on to enumerate the races and ages and how everyone was laughing, singing and enjoying the day.

I somewhat cynically remarked about how alcohol can do that.  She retorted that it wasn’t all about alcohol, it was about family.  That reminded me about the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt, and his refusal to partake of St. Patrick’s Day commercialism by going about his normal day and attending church in the evening.  To paraphrase “that is how we celebrate in Ireland and that is how I will celebrate in America.”

When I reflected later on her words and thought about the families gathered together in that hotel room, I began to see the day in a different light.  While alcohol lubricates the wheels, family gives us direction long after we sober up.  It is our family that keeps us centered and cemented in reality.

There are times when we as good union brothers and sisters must keep what happens in the hall at the hall.  This is good business.  When we gather with our spouses, children, parents and the rest of our blood family with our working family, we not only spread the message of unions as inclusionary institutions, but add more sticks to the bundle to make us an even stronger assembly.

In union there is strength.  In union, with family, we are invincible.