New York City’s tens of thousands of traffic signals and streetlights demand attention, even when a pandemic keeps the vast majority of motorists off the roads.
In addition to its food pantry donations and volunteers, E-J Electric launched “Heroes for Heroes,” during the crisis, sending submarine sandwiches to medical workers at area hospitals on Wednesdays. Pictured: Grateful recipients at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital.
“I wouldn’t say it was less work, but it made travel a little easier,” said Dave Ferguson, head of the Roadway Division at E-J Electric, a signatory contractor that employs about 1,000 Local 3 members. “The system needs to be maintained, just wear and tear. Even in a void, traffic signals need to stay on.”
Planning ahead prevents collisions and saves lives, and E-J Electric applied the same blueprint to COVID-19. While many employees had to slam on the brakes at the last minute, the company heeded early warnings and shifted gears.
In February, before the city had a single known infection, Ferguson, general superintendent Bobby McCloskey and assistant superintendent Brian Lang, all Local 3 members, set up a war room and began ordering disinfectants and PPE.
“When all this hit like the tidal wave, we had a stock of sanitary equipment,” Ferguson said. “We were able to stay ahead of the curve.”
As of June, only three workers had tested positive for the virus; all are OK.
“We didn’t have any cluster effect,” Lang said. “We thought we must be doing something right to control the contamination.”
Taking good care of its workers and its community is tradition for the Bronx-based company, which has been in the same family since 1899.
Local 3-represented office workers at E-J Electric assemble meal kits at a Catholic Charities pop-up food pantry.
In April, learning of skyrocketing demand at food programs run by Catholic Charities, E-J Electric started buying thousands of dollars’ worth of fresh food at a massive Bronx produce market, along with protein and grains for meal kits.
With the company’s owner, Tony Mann, footing the bill, office employees — also Local 3 members —provided the hands.
For nearly three months on Fridays, they assembled some 2,000 meal kits at a pop-up food pantry, enough groceries to feed a family of four for three days.
“Today we learned that we helped over 100,000 families and served over a million meals,” Lang said in late June. “A monumental effort. We’re extremely proud of the members of E-J Electric and Local 3.”
Concerned about the risk of infection, some workers were hesitant to volunteer at first, Ferguson said. But that quickly changed.
“The office staff felt a real kinship with the field personnel. A lot of them expressed to me that, ‘We get to stay in the office, while the guys are getting in their trucks and going out there. We want to do that.’
“I think we all needed a cause to feel good about,” he said.