July 29, 2021 - queensledger.com
Regarding the guest editorial on Essential Workers by Joseph A. Colangelo last week – the fact that the city administration ignored the contributions of trade-workers in the pandemic recovery is merely a symptom of a much larger problem our society faces: the systematic destruction of our nation’s once-great trade-education system resulting in many people today believing that the trades don’t deserve respect. Where does this attitude come from?
School systems across the country have disbanded and defunded training programs in automotive, electrical, and other trades for decades. The attitude among many school administrators is that the trades are not valuable or respectable careers for students. Most counselors and teachers discourage good students from taking shop classes, and direct only “inferior” students to such programs. They are under the misconception that all high school grads must go directly to college or else they have failed. This thinking is completely wrong, but so prevalent that most parents have been brainwashed into believing it and push their children to go to college even if they are not motivated or prepared to do so. The result: half fail out.
Many young people possess the aptitude to pursue successful careers in the trades but are discouraged by the system. With proper training, those with the skills and necessary work ethic will achieve higher-paying jobs than do average college graduates. This fact directly contradicts the prevailing wisdom that has infected our educational system, which results in failing students who have no marketable skills and are buried in debt. By contrast, graduates of a high school or post-secondary trade-training program can immediately earn salaries on a par with most graduates of four-year colleges and be earning while training. For example, new members of Mr. Colangelo’s union begin working with higher salaries than most bachelors-degree holders, and in a few years are earning more than many with graduate-degrees. Like many others, I’ve had the good fortune to acquire both trade-skills and college degrees. The two paths are not mutually exclusive, but ideal. It’s time for educators to grasp this fact.
Many economists and other thought leaders have recently written about the need for more skilled-trade workers in our economy, and we frequently reinforce this idea on The Autolab Radio Show. Fortunately, some are beginning to see the light – many students are now seeking out trade-education, and schools like Bronx Community College, where I teach, have recently invested in new training facilities. Unfortunately, many schools cannot meet the demand for trade-training today. School systems must immediately return skilled-trades training to the status and funding it deserves. Without skilled workers performing critical jobs, our modern economy cannot thrive. Where do the education professionals, who often earn less than do skilled tradesmen, think the workers needed to rebuild our infrastructure will come from? We must produce enough skilled workers, or our high-tech economy will not survive.
With great hope for the return of trade education . . . before it’s too late!
Host, The Autolab Radio Show
July 22, 2021 - queensledger.com
On July 7th, the City of New York held a ticker-tape-parade to pay tribute to the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. They honored hospital workers, doctors, nurses, police, fire, sanitation, EMTs, and paramedics, along with other essential workers – all of whom deserve our deepest appreciation for being on the front-lines throughout the horrific past year and a half.
Unfortunately, there is one group of essential workers that is somehow always overlooked – Auto Mechanics and Machinists. Without the dedication and expertise of these highly skilled men and women, the emergency and other services our city relies on would just not be able to function for long. Ambulances, fire apparatus, police vehicles, sanitation trucks, and the cars, trains, and buses, that transported all the essential workers to their respective jobs, would have been out of commission! If not for the work of these Mechanics and Machinists, along with other trade-workers, the pandemic’s death-toll would have been much higher. These tradesmen were not afforded the opportunity to stay home and isolate during the pandemic, as most city employees were. Instead, they were required to risk exposure, not only for themselves but their loved ones as well, simply because they were indispensable and reported to their jobs daily to do their critical work – despite significant risk.
Just as during the horrific attack of Sept. 11, 2001, when these same workers were exposed to deadly toxins while working on equipment that supported the clean-up and recovery almost 20 years ago, their exposure during the current coronavirus crisis was no less hazardous.
Sadly, many Auto Mechanics and Machinists have lost their lives in service during both the COVID pandemic and from work associated with 9/11. The next time we honor essential workers, it would be nice if recognition were given to these same trade-workers who have always supported the work of our frontline heroes. Remember, those on the frontlines could not do their jobs without those who back them up by maintaining the equipment they use on the job, and the vehicles that get them there. It takes a team of many professionals to keep the city functioning, under both normal and emergency conditions, and if the City is going to honor its “heroes,” then that means – ALL who put their lives on the line!
With great respect for ALL essential workers who always go above and beyond,
Joseph A. Colangelo
President, SEIU NYC Local 246
Today, 9/11, we again remember the lives lost from our DSNY family and we pay solemn tribute once again. Our Workers were exposed to hazardous materials during the cleanup. Watch our video, also shown in our garages across the city, where we never forget.
On Thursday, Jan. 29, President Joseph A. Colangelo was one of many who testified before the New York City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management and the Committee on Governmental Operations on the problems with the oversight and maintenance of the NYC unified fleet.
Photo: Michel Friang Photography