Building Trades, Education, Features, Health and Safety, New York

Defining the Line

September 1, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

New York, NY – As August comes to a close, we arrive at the start of the school year. However, the usual “Back to School” sentiments are different this time around. But even with the uncertainty of classroom activity and whether attendance will be virtual or physical, the actual structures and building facilities are still maintained by the essential staffing.  This means cleaning. This means the year-round upkeep of the building’s systems and the duties of the school’s engineers is a role in and of itself.

The maintenance tasks range from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning to other basic building essentials, such as typical plumbing duties, bathroom repairs, simple electrical tasks, door repairs, fire prevention, and life safety. By the time the doors open, the building must be ready for attendance. This means all systems must be operating and functioning at their optimal level because Covid or not, here comes the school year. 

Longtime and retired member of Local 94 James McCue was open to discussing his role in the schools and the list of daily tasks from starting the boilers to snow removal. McCue stressed the importance of each job as a means to keep his operations running smoothly — and to keep his efforts loyal, McCue regarded his work as defined by his list of duties; however, there were times when supervisors would ask McCue to do work that belonged to other trades. 

”I have always been loyal to other unions,” said McCue. “If I do someone else’s job it is only a matter of time before someone sneaks in to do mine.”

McCue talked about the necessity of the line between different trades. McCue explains, “Me doing someone else’s work is taking food from someone else’s table.” There is a need to understand the difference in trades as well as the need to honor each of the building trades. More and more and with unemployment on the rise, the lanes between different trades must be honored. “Everyone has the right to work,” said McCue. “What kind of union brother would I be if I took that away from someone else?”

From hallways to staircases, to cafeterias, and from window shades to water fountains, McCue explained the need to keep things in order is not only essential to the benefit of the property itself but is equally as important to the staff and the students the buildings serve. 

Although we are living in different times, perhaps it makes sense to get back to the basics that created the organization of unionized trades. This way we can work together and keep our jobs to make sure that everyone puts food on their table.  

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at

September 1, 2020

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