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By Jacob Bourne, Contributing Writer and Photographer

Members of the Glaziers Local 718 recently began work on an affordable housing project at 691 China Basin Street. The project, built by general contractor Cahill, will deliver 152 units for low-income families including 38 apartments that are reserved for residents relocating from HOPE SF public housing sites, which are up for redevelopment. The project will rise to 74 feet in height with an even taller parapet, and is part of Mission Bay South Block 6 that runs along Merrimac Street between China Basin and Mission Bay Boulevard North.

Working for CEO Glazing Company, a crew of Local 718 members installed 600-pound aluminum windows for use on the exterior and slightly lighter vinyl windows for an interior courtyard area. With innovations in quality and seismic safety steadily changing the craft, glaziers have found themselves working with progressively heavier materials than in prior years, a change which necessitates more teamwork.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed jobsite safety protocols. Workers are now required to keep adequate distance from one another whenever it’s feasible to do so. They’re also required to wear masks and safety goggles for most of the workday. An onsite safety coordinator screens and takes the temperature of everyone who enters the jobsite and even screens individuals who are in the vicinity of the site. Despite the hurdles brought on by the pandemic, the glaziers have been near hundred percent work capacity.

–Voices From the Union–

Sam Ghartey

Sam Ghartey

I’ve worked as a glazier for eight years and joined Local 718 two years ago. I love this trade and the union has been awesome to be a part of. I get all the information I need and everything is handled well. They take care of me so I’m I really happy, and love the way things are run.

It’s scary working during the pandemic with all the things we are hearing. We are praying that things get better. Wearing this mask is uncomfortable and it affects your breathing. Sometimes when there’s no one around, you have to take it off and take a breath of fresh air. It makes the job more challenging and when the safety glasses get foggy, you can’t see. This makes the job a bit more difficult compared to how things are normally.

I’m so happy to have the work because my company is taking all the preventative steps for COVID-19. Everyone is doing their part to make a safe work environment. That makes me comfortable and confident that we’re going to get through this.

Alfred Espino

Alfred Espino

I joined the union as a walk-in over seven years ago. My father and grandfather are both in the carpenters union, and they encouraged me to go union. With this local, there’s a lot of solidarity and we keep up to date with all the current events.

It’s been pretty smooth working during the pandemic. Getting used to working with this mask on is the hardest part. I’m just thankful to be working and I wasn’t worried about coming back. We’re doing the social distancing and everyone wears a mask and they’re pushing us to wash our hands a lot. A lot of things like hand washing and cleaning should be done anyway so it’s not a problem.

Val Piatrouski

Val Piatrouski

I started as a Local 718 Glazier in 2008. It’s been good. I’m still here after all. This job should be about a six to eight month project that will provide good steady work for us. Our company has been busy.

I have no issues working during this time as long as everyone follows the rules. I appreciate having work especially since I know a lot of people are out of work right now. They want us to wear a mask the whole time and to not share tools. You can’t always keep the six feet apart, but if there are chances to do that then they want us to try, and on top of that, they have stairs where you can only go down and another set of stairs for going up only. These things make it way harder to do your job, but it is what it is.

Christopher LaSalle

Christopher LaSalle

I’ve been with Local 718 for 12 years. One day I saw a guy doing windows at my apartment and I asked him how to get [into the union] and he gave me all the information about joining. I’m really happy with the decision I made to join the union. The best thing about it is meeting new people, doing different kinds of work in a variety of places. The job sites are always safe. The union takes care of us in terms of pay and benefits. It’s better to be union because you get more in terms of benefits to help you and your family out.

Things are different now with COVID-19, but you still have to work. You have to pay those bills. The way that everything is laid out here is good. Everything is kept clean, so I feel comfortable coming to work.

Jose Mota

Jose Mota

I’m three years into the apprenticeship program. I had met [a union member] at a job at a coffee shop where I was working non-union and he told me to give him a call if I wanted to earn a good living. So I had been working as a non-union glazier for about a year before joining, and [joining] was a great decision.

The apprenticeship program has been really good, but we haven’t had much school in a couple months. Everything has been shut down but and I think we’re going to have a lot of catching up to do because we’re very behind.

Things have been a bit scary. I took off like two months and then came back to see how things went after reopening. It seemed like everything was cool so I came back to work. Knowing that our employer has to give us masks and that there’s someone who walks around with a bleach bottle spraying everything like handrails and staircases made me feel good to know that I’m in a clean environment. The toilets are being cleaned everyday so that makes me feel better. They want us to wear glasses and the mask, but it’s hard because when you get fogged up, it takes more time because you have to get the glasses defogged before you can get back to work. It makes things harder, but we’re getting there.

The union has been very supportive of members through this whole thing. It was helpful to get all the emails and mail about options we had. If one of our family members got sick we could pull money out of our annuity, so that was good to know.

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