The first thing I want to say to all the members and families of Local 78 – I hope you are well, staying safe and following the necessary guidelines to protect yourself and your family.To say we are living in a crazy, uncertain time is an understatement.
Given the uncertain times, the need to stay separated, and the uncertainty and concerns that arise from these circumstances, the Executive Board of Local 78 has decided to publish a newsletterto communicate directly with the members and families of the Local. This newsletter will be published on a regular basic and we hope that it will serve as a way for us to communicate what is going on with your Union and for you to communicate your concerns with us.
Open lines of communication are the key to our success, especially during these times.It is our commitment to always provide you with accurate, factual information.Rumors and gossip can only add to the problems and challenges we all face.
Brothers and sisters, these last few months we have faced possibility the greatest challenge in our lifetime.A global pandemic has swept across our nation, requiring an almost complete shutdown of our economy and way of life.For months New York City was the epicenter of this crisis.And as a result of industry was virtually shut down.Our work, dangerous under normal circumstances, was impossible.Some limited, emergency work continued.But not enough to sustain our membership.
The combination of New York State unemployment benefits, along with the federal government’s emergency action, provided some relief.And your Trust Funds took action to provide emergency assistance.
I have pleased to report that it appears to have the weathered the worst and there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.New York is slowly re-opening.Jobs are beginning to start up.Contractors are contacting the Union and asking for workers.But we must remain cautious and as we return to the jobs, we must make sure we adhere to ALL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS that are in place.That should be easier for us, than in other trades.We know better than anyone else the importance of safety and have always worked using the most stringent precautions.
Throughout these past months, the leadership of Local78 and LIUNA has continued to attend to the business of running your union.I want to thank Bobby Bonanza, the business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council for his continued support and leadership during these times.He continues to be one of our unions most important allies.Whenever we have asked him for his help, he has been there and provide us with whatever we need.Thank you, Bobby.
Our International Union, under the leadership of General President Terence Sullivan, Secretary Treasurer Armand Sabitoni and, especially our Vice President & Eastern Region Manager Raymond Pocino, have made all the resources of our union available.They have provided invaluable support, information and guidance throughout these troubled times.
At the local level we have continued to run your Union in the most prudent, responsible manner possible.As the toll of the pandemic set in, we took the difficult step of downsizing the staff.This is always a difficult decision but given the circumstance, we had no choice.As things move forward, we will revisit our staffing needs and see if there is the opportunity to bring back some or all of those positions.The finances of your Union remain stable.The shutdown has forced us to look closely at every dollar we spend and for ways to save money. Just one example is the parades that we all enjoy and participate in.Because of the ban on such activities, the Local we save over $75,000 this year.While we all love participating those activities, health and safety requirements demand that they be put on hold.Therefore, those resources normally allocated can be re-directed the other needs.
Your Trust Funds remain strong.The trustees recently voted to increase the hours of eligibly from 700 to 1000 hours.This brings our eligibility requirements in line with similar requirements of other building trades unions and will ensure the continued strength and viability of our funds.Action was also taken to provide a one-time emergency withdrawal from your annuity account, without penalty.
Even during these times, our organizers have continued in their jobs of working to increase our market share.One thing this crisis has shown the world is the need for safe, trained workers to protect everyone.Our training and expertise should serve us well as the economy reopens and looked to hire the most skilled and trained workers possible.
Brothers and sisters, I want to reassure you that we will come through these difficult times stronger and more united than ever.We have all faced challenges. before – in our personal lives and in our work.But we have survived and gotten stronger.Today is no different.Please stay safe, protect yourself and your families and remain good union members.Together we will prevail.
A Message from Eastern Region Manager Raymond Pocino
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As always, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about YOUR union. Global pandemics and industry shutdowns have certainly made our work harder, but we continue to push forward– even if forward doesn’t come fast enough or advance things far enough to meet our current needs.
As an industry and as a Union, we cannot ignore the hardships we all face—the fellow members we tragically lost to COVID-19, the halting of work, the feelings of insecurity and despair. But now that we are seeing signs of more work opening up, we cannot let up on our efforts. We must expand and protect our jurisdiction, demand safe work places, and command the fair pay and benefits we deserve.
Our work is never done, and I hope you can be a part of our shared success. Your LIUNA brothers and sisters are counting on you, just as you must rely on them. Let’s stick together and support one another. Whether we are on the job site or in our communities, Local 78 is best when Local 78 is united.
Salvatore J. DiLorenzo is the President and Managing Principal of PAL, a full-service environmental remediation contracting firm specializing in asbestos removal, building decontamination, lead paint abatement, general contracting, structural fireproofing and mold remediation. Sal began his career as a Laborer, working in the environmental/fireproofing trades Utilizing his first-hand experience in the environmental field, Sal founded PAL in 1993. Under his guidance, the company has grown to become an industry leader and one of the largest environmental contractors in the United States.
Given all that has happened in the last 6 months, what is your assessment of the current state of the industry?
The past six months have been very difficult, not only to our industry, but to our entire economy and country.We have faced many challenges in the past, 9-11 always comes to mind.But the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with challenges and problems that we have never faced.Past economic downturns have been the result of economic factors.The downturn we are facing today is the result of a public health crisis, which required the voluntary shut down of our economy.Restarting the economy under these circumstances is a new challenge.The primary responsibility we have in going forward is ensuring the safety and health of all our employees.In some ways this is easier for us than in other industries.Our work is always dangerous, and we are used to providing the most stringent safety precautions for all our employees.We know all too well what making a mistake can mean – injury or even worse. Ensuring our workers safety has always been our top priority and in the age of COVID-19 that priority remains of TOP PRIORITY.
What do you see for immediate future, say in the coming 6-12 months?
The marketplace is changing.New York has always been a strong union city. Unfortunately, the non-union sector of our industry has slowly been making significant inroads in our work.And a crisis like the current pandemic only serves to help them make further inroads.Add to that the fact that many projects are on hold pending the re-opening of our economy, and defeating the virus, and we face two enemies.Developers are waiting to see what the new normal will look like, will businesses need the amount of office space they previously needed?Will the residential market continue to grow, or will people leave the city for other locations?And maybe most importantly, will the financing needed to proceed with the projects be available?Will the money be there? Any one of these challenges would be serious, together they create a whole new level of problems.
So, what is the answer?
Like I said a strong labor union has built this city.And today, more than ever we need a strong, skilled workforce.Our goal is not to meet our non-union competition on their level, but rather to raise them to our level.Working as partners with our signatory unions, we offer our workers stability, with the most stringent safety precautions, good wages and benefits.The difference is a job versus a career.We are committed to our developers, industry, and employees.All we ask is for a level playing field and that everyone play by the same rules If that is the case, we will always prevail against any challenge we face – economic, health, or non-union.
As a trustee of the Mason Tender Trust Funds, you share responsibilities with other industry and union leaders in ensuring the security and welfare of thousands of Laborers.How has the pandemic affected the Funds and members it serves?
Our welfare and trust funds remain strong.As trustees we take very seriously our responsibility to the members who benefit from these funds.It is their hard work and money that maintains these funds.Every decision we make is to protect them.That is why as the pandemic hit and our industry shut down, we took quick action to allow participant to make a one-time $10,000 withdrawal from their annuity account, without penalty.The thought was this emergency action would help our participants meet their immediate expenses.While the funds remain strong, it is important to remember one thing – they only remain strong if the union members work on collectively bargained jobs and the contributions are made on their behalf to the funds.Working non-union does nothing to benefit the funds or the future benefits for the members.We must remain strong and committed to the signatory employers and the unions.
Mason Tenders District Council Signs Memorandum of Understanding with ECA Regarding Hotel Coronavirus Decontamination
As the coronavirus spread throughout New York City, the Mason Tenders District Council, negotiated a memorandum of agreement with the Environmental Contractors Association, as it relates to the decontamination of hotels in New York.The agreement called for a $5.00 per hour increase over the regular wages.“This agreement recognizes the dangerous work that Local 78 members an engaged in,’ said Robert Bonanza, business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council.“If ever there was a time to acknowledge those dangers and provide additional compensation to our members, the time is now,”
This agreement remains in full force through July 31, 2020.
In February Local 78 recently marked a new milestone with the establishment of the Local 78 Retiree Council.The Council will serve as a vehicle to keep the growing number of Local 78 retirees informed and involved in the affairs of the Local.“We owe our retirees a debt of gratitude that we can never repay,” said deputy supervisor Pawel Gruchacz.“Those who came before us, built this union and we must never forget the sacrifices and hard work that they endured.This Council will allow our retirees to provide valuable insight and advice, while also ensuring that they remain an active part of our union.”The Council will be chaired by Local 78 member John Keenan, with Deputy Supervisor Pawel Gruchacz, President Jan Sanislo, and Secretary-Treasurer Joel Burgos serving as co-chairmen.The other members of the Council will include Local 78 Business Agent Chris Walek and retirees Stanislow Kosiec, Anatol Dudzicz, Raul Garcia, Jeffrey Cooper, Jan Pomichowski, Andrej Szplitgejber, and Samuel Arevalo.
Since the beginning of this 2020, Local 78 has lost many members.The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and other causes has seen a spike in the number of deaths.We want to take this opportunity to remember those members lost and pay our respects.Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families during these difficult times.