Few states have seen more devastation due to the COVID-19 pandemic than New Jersey. Not surprisingly, the IBEW and its local unions there stepped up to provide a huge assist to frontline healthcare workers.
The state’s six construction locals donated more than 50,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to the state to be distributed as needed. The move was led by Ian Leonard, the state political director for construction locals and a member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351.
Besides 351, other locals taking part in the initiative included Paterson Local 102, Jersey City Local 164, Trenton Local 269, Asbury Park Local 400 and New Brunswick Local 456.
“As a friend once told me, remember the world is round,” said Leonard, who previously served as chief of staff to former state House Speaker Joe Roberts and as an elected official in Camden County. “We’re all in this together and we can’t hide from each other. Even if we’re on the other side of the world, we need each other.”
The extraordinary IBEW effort was recognized in a recent press conference by Gov. Phil Murphy, who thanked Leonard by name. Leonard said his connections throughout the state have allowed him to call on suppliers and signatory contractors that others might not have access to.
But he and Local 351 Business Manager Daniel Cosner were quick to add that it has been a team effort, with locals and members across New Jersey donating items such as masks, face shields and Tyvek suits, jackets and boots.
“I told the governor that this was from the business managers and all our members around the state,” Leonard said. “We’re always looking to help out.”
Added Cosner: “I’m just really, really proud of how all our brothers and sisters have stepped up on this. The IBEW is always there when people are dealing with the worst and that’s when our members are at their best. I can’t think of a better example in our state.”
New Jersey had more than 71,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 15, second in the nation behind New York. Its grim total of 3,156 deaths was also second to New York.
As tragic as the pandemic has been, the PPE effort is just another example of the IBEW maintaining a positive working relationship with New Jersey officials, including Murphy, who has been an advocate for working families since his election in 2017. Cosner noted that most construction workers in the state have been declared essential and his members remain at full employment.
“We’ve had a great relationship with the governor, and it’s meaningful for two reasons,” he said. “It’s good for our members because they’re working and it’s good for the state because the hospitals and health-care facilities we need are getting built.”