October 24, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – When FDNY Battalion Chief and Uniformed Fire Officer’s Association President James “Jake” Lemonda was asked to share what he thought were his biggest accomplishments in labor, he refused to take any credit as an individual, citing instead, what his “team” of nine board members of the union’s Executive Board had done together.
“I don’t look at [these achievements] as individual accomplishments. Through the years, we’ve had exceptional boards that have worked together, and under my tenure as Executive Board President, that continues today.”
Despite his modesty, Lemonda has an impressive history in his own right. 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. He was nicknamed “Jake” there, by a senior firefighter, in reference to boxer “Jake LaMotta,” and the name stuck. He says that 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.” His involvement with the union also began there. “The Bronx as a borough is very union-centric, and this began my involvement with the firefighter’s union. 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. Then, 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.
One of the recent accomplishments that he shares with the board is the new authorization of the James Zadroga Act, that provides health benefits and compensation for 9/11-related health problems. “Working alongside the UFA, with Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Firefighters, with other labor leaders and leaders of police unions, we were able to lobby Washington and successfully have the Zadroga Act re-authorized for 75 years, which is a huge accomplishment.”
Another achievement has been “the formation of a uniformed superior coalition to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement to obtain a successful contract for the 2011-2018 round of collective bargaining,” says Lemonda. “This included the UFOA, Captains, Lieutenants and Detectives from the Police Department, Corrections Captains, Wardens, and Deputy Wardens, some Sanitation Supervisors, and others.”
One other high point, says Lemonda, is that the Fire Officers “were able to negotiate and purchase permanent office space in Manhattan that we own and that will go on and serve members of this union well into the future.”
With this full list, Lemonda certainly has a lot to be proud of. But he continues to share credit, saying that without his wife of thirty years, Ann, “I would not be able to do my job.” Together, they have two children, Kathryn, an occupational therapist who lives and works in Santa Monica, CA, and Elizabeth, a nurse at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.