Editor’s Note: On Thursday, November 19, LaborPress and Emblem Health bring you the second half of the 9th Annual LaborPress Heroes of Labor Awards. The virtual event beginning at 2 p.m. will feature a timely discussion with union leaders representing New York City Emergency Services workers. Honorees include Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association President Faye Smyth; Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 President Andy Ansbro; Uniformed Fire Officers Association, IAFF Local 854 President James “Jake” Lemonda; Local 2507, DC 37, AFSCME President Oren Barzilay; and Local 3621 DC37, AFSCME President Vincent Variale. Click here to register for the event.
New York, NY – The Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) is a 2500-member strong union for lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals in the Fire Department of New York. The organization is Local 854 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. FDNY Battalion Chief James “Jake” Lemonda is their president, having held the post since 2014. He was unanimously re-elected as the president at its annual reorganization meeting on September 1st.
Lemonda has an impressive history. Born in the Bronx, he graduated from Queens College in 1980, and in 1981, became a New York City Police Officer. Shortly after that, he went to work as a Suffolk County Police Officer. Then, in 1986, he joined the FDNY and was assigned to Engine 92 in the Bronx. A senior firefighter there nicknamed Lemonda “Jake” — in reference to renowned boxer “Jake LaMotta” — and the name stuck. Lemonda says Engine 92 was one of the busiest firehouses in the city, and had a big influence on him.
“I got to learn my trade alongside some great firefighters and exceptional fire officers, which influenced my career. I tried to emulate so many of them in so many ways,” he says.
Lemonda’s involvement with the union also began at Engine 92.
“The Bronx as a borough is very union-centric, and this began my involvement with the firefighter’s union,” he says. “Nick Mancuso, president of the UFA at one time, was also a member of that firehouse and also influenced by many other labor leaders that came out of the Bronx.”
Lemonda was promoted to Lieutenant in 1994, and assigned to Division 11. Subsequently, he transferred to Engine 234 in Brooklyn. Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, he was promoted to Captain. In 2005, he was promoted to Battalion Chief and assigned to Battalion 11 in Harlem. In 2009, he was elected to the Fire Officer’s Association Executive Board. He was elected as President in 2014.
Now, with the global pandemic, Lemonda and his front-line workers must contend with the inherent dangers of their job that have been magnified in these difficult times. Says Lemonda, “The New York City Fire Department has been on the front lines 365 days a year, 24/7 to protect the citizens of New York.”
When asked about how the union is contending with the impact of the likelihood of another wave of COVID-19 on its members, Lemonda says, “We’re continuing to work with the Department to ensure our workers have proper protective protection and to implement proper protective safety procedures, so their health and their families are protected.”
As to illness and deaths within the ranks, Lemonda says, “Thank God none of our active members have perished due to COVID-19. We had a few members very, very seriously ill who required hospitalizations. Obviously, being on the front lines, many of our members were infected.”