Our response to the Covid crisis shows why unions are essential


Union worker at work during coronavirus pandemic

Those who work in the industry have always known it, but COVID-19 has made it clear to the public: construction is essential.

Through thickness and thinness, the unionized construction industry remains America’s lifeblood. These workers erect critical infrastructure – from highways and airports to schools, government buildings, and health care facilities. In times of crisis, these construction workers have unique skills to quickly transform non-traditional spaces into intensive care centers.

Amid this public health crisis and economic recession, the New York City Union Carpenters remained 20,000 members. Although we could not escape the onset of the pandemic, we have met every day united and committed to our members to be strong unions. The shield at the base of the emblem in our logo symbolizes that those of us who are union members have a moral obligation to safeguard and protect our members. This is a core value of our union, and during COVID-19, this is what we did.

When New York City was declared a hotspot for the virus, we took a stand and advocated that the government have a strict definition of what was considered essential, ensuring that our members and their families remain safe and healthy.

We have listened and communicated with our members. We have prioritized worker protections and seized every opportunity to alleviate financial stress. We were there to provide support, share unemployment resources and protect every member who was unemployed with our benefit funds.

We have worked hard to make our members feel protected during this pandemic, by providing additional PPE to fill gaps in the PPE provided by the contractor and by providing information on the new site safety protocol. and COVID-19 training courses. To ensure that our members’ questions are answered, we have hosted Zoom webinars to educate our Stewards and Foremen about the new normal safety standards.

These measures may seem like a no-brainer, yet at the height of the pandemic we have seen many non-union workers at sites without adequate PPE. Time and time again, the kind of support, expertise and focus on safety we have demonstrated has proven to be unique to the unionized construction industry.

When our state economy shut down, our union quickly realized that we were building a plane while we were flying it. Construction projects across New York City were still underway and it was up to us to create a plan to keep critical jobsites safe.

When we got together with other affiliates, contractors, developers and real estate executives in the building trades, we found that many other unions were distributing face masks and providing free COVID-19 antibody tests. Together, we have learned from each other and become stronger.

We believe our industry is as strong as its weakest link. The District Council will continue to serve as the voice of all workers in New York City, ensuring that construction sites meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidelines. The current wage legislation on which we led the charge and won in the midst of the pandemic is proof of this. We stand up for all construction workers, union and non-union.

The unionized construction industry has not only built this great city and state, it has also responded willingly and compassionately to its times of greatest need and peril. We are proud to be a guiding force and an unwavering support system for our members and our communities, now and always.

There is a long road to recovery ahead, and the New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters will be there every step of the way.

Joseph Geiger, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters.

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