New York, NY – Amanda Filpo is on the verge of completing her five-year apprenticeship as a Local 28 Sheet Metal worker — and she’s earned it.
Filpo graduated from the Nontraditional Employment for Women [NEW] Building Trades program nearly seven years ago, and will be becoming a mechanic in August.
She continues working 10- to 12-hour shifts during the pandemic, but Filpo says she’s glad to be working because it’s helping to keep her mind occupied with “everything that is going on” in the world.
Filpo is working with a company called CW Sheet Metal doing emergency work on area hospitals installing wings on numerous floors designated for the treatment of patients afflicted with COVID-19.
She was working at Long Island Northwell Hospital before she began working on a public hospital in the Bronx. It’s an urgent job that requires the completion of four floors within 40 days.
Working during the pandemic has“definitely been a little bit scarier than usual,” Filpo says.
“You have to be a little bit safer in these working conditions,” she says. “But the company requires that we wear masks, use hand sanitizers and wash our hands in the washing stations. It’s been a little bit crazy, but I’m glad to be doing my part to help control this deadly virus.”
Filpo’s also been feeling some anxiety about other work disappearing during the lockdown, and how it could impact members of her family.
“Especially in the beginning because there was a lot of uncertainty about what’s going on,” Filpo says. “In fact, my father and brother are also in the union and their job sites shut down because the job was deemed non-essential.”
Filpo says she is careful to observe strict self-protective guidelines — and while it’s a challenge wearing a mask all day — she’s grown accustomed to it.
“Wearing a mask all day long can be very stressful,” she says. “It makes it harder to breathe because you’re in tight spaces. It makes your job a little harder, but then you get used to it — it’s weird. I actually feel weird without the mask when I’m on the job site. It took some adjusting, though.”
She commends her company for providing the appropriate amount of Personal Protective Equipment [PPE]. Many essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic can’t say the same thing. Because she’s a sheet metal worker, Filpo’s always wearing gloves on the job, but she’s been grateful that there has been a steady supply of masks.
In addition, she and her fellow tradesmen and tradeswomen are given temperature checks before entering the job site. If anyone has a higher than average temperature, they are sent home and advised to quarantine for at least 14 days.
Parts of upstate New York are starting to open up their local economies, and the statewide shutdown is expected to end Friday, May 15. Although many labor unions and worker advocacy groups are urging Governor Cuomo to enact new executive orders safeguarding workers before that happens.
Filpo believes that the guidelines and procedures she and her co-workers have been adhering to will remain in effect for quite a while.
“I think we first have to see what happens when it does reopen,” she says. “I think that on the job site, they are going to keep the standards in effect. I think people will be wearing masks and gloves until a vaccine is discovered, or at least until the number of people affected drops.”