MEMBERSHIP UPDATE FROM BM JIM SNELL
Friday, March 27, 2020
March 27, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I write to you today to keep you, the membership of Steamfitters Local 420, updated and informed as to the current situation that is in front us created by the Coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, I hope that you and your families are safe and healthy during these uncertain times.
We, as a group, must continue to remain vigilant on our job-sites as far as social distancing, washing our hands with soap and warm water, using hand sanitizer, etc. We should all be concerned as we certainly do not want to bring this virus home to our families and loved ones.
In regards to job-sites that are working in our jurisdiction; myself and a few other Business Managers in the Philadelphia Building Trades have been in constant contact with Governor Wolf and his staff lobbying to keep as many work-sites safely open for business, and to give our members the opportunity to work. As of two weekends ago, on a call with the Governor on a Saturday afternoon, the decision was made, with a strong influence from the Philadelphia Building Trades, that all construction in our region would be classified as “essential”. Our members then continued to work on those projects, deemed “essential “, the following week from Monday, March 16th, until Thursday, March 19th. It was on that Thursday in the late afternoon when a curve-ball was thrown at the Philadelphia Building Trades.
I believe the Governor and his staff were given a doomsday scenario of what the Coronavirus pandemic was going to do to our region and, as many of you know, he then started to use the term “life sustaining” instead of “essential”, meaning, all of the projects that the Philadelphia Building Trades were working on throughout our jurisdiction were going to be significantly reduced because of the Governor’s new stance on construction. His labeling of work-sites as “life sustaining” primarily focused on the healthcare sector, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, etc.; because of this, it would have created very high unemployment within the Philadelphia Building Trades and Steamfitters Local 420 due to the many work-site closures that were about to happen. It was at this point that myself and other Business Managers within the Building Trades had intense discussions once again with the Governor and his staff. After these talks took place, the Governor’s office understood the significance of keeping members of Steamfitters Local 420 and the Building Trades working on many job-sites.
However, in order to work on a job-site, the building owner, General Contractor for that project, or the Philadelphia Building Trades had to first receive a “waiver” from the Governor’s office to keep that project open for business. Steamfitters Local 420 has collaborated with many developers and end users to help them get these waivers for many projects throughout our jurisdiction, and by doing this, it keeps our members working in both the construction and service sectors of our Local Union. In particular, we have been instrumental in helping get waivers for sites such as the Penn First Hospital Project, the new LIVE Casino Project in South Philadelphia, the Intech Office Building Project in Conshohocken, the Mariner East Pipeline Project, the CHOP King of Prussia project, (as well as work at their Philadelphia site), and many other sites. We have, and are getting close to receiving, waivers for a handful of condo related projects in Center City Philadelphia. We are working hard to get a waiver for the Air Liquide Project in Fairless Hills, Bucks County.
I do want to highlight one particular project, the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant annual outage; Local 420 has roughly 105 members on this site currently, in addition to the hundreds of other tradesmen & tradeswomen. This outage continues to employ our members despite efforts from local politicians to shut this site down due to the Coronavirus issue. Business Agent Tom Redden has been in the middle of some heated discussions with these politicians, and continues to fight on your behalf.
I want to thank the leadership of Steamfitters Local 420, including our Business Agents, our Financial Secretary - Treasurer, our Funds Administrator, our Training Directors and Instructors at the Training Center, and all of our officers for their handling of many different issues and situations over the last couple of weeks due to the uncertain times created by this Coronavirus.
In closing, I want to be crystal clear in what the message has been over the last two weeks when the question has been posed by a member - “What should I do if my job-site is open?” or “What does the Local want me to do, should I go to work or stay home?”.
I have told our contractors and the Business Agents that Steamfitters Local 420’s position is this; if the job is open and our members wish to go to work, then by all means, go to work. However, if any of our members do not feel safe, in any way, and are afraid of contracting the Coronavirus, then give them a clean layoff with no repercussions. Our contractors have agreed with this position totally, and I thank them for that.
Lastly, I will continue to update our membership as new information becomes available. Please continue to be as safe as possible on those projects that are working and most of all, keep your families safe during these uncertain times. If you need to speak with me, my cell number is 215-514-4927 or if you would rather send me an email, my email address is email@example.com.
Steamfitters Local Union 420