November 26, 2020

Elevator union rises with help of union plus

Texan Jim Murnan certainly knows the ups and downs of elevator installations and servicing. For over 20 years, he had been an apprentice and then a mechanic in Local 21 of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

For the past five years, though, Murnan, now a union business rep, has been organizing members in the 700-member, Arlington, Texas-based local. As one of the local’s two business reps, he has to cover a territory that stretches from Louisiana to New Mexico and involves over a dozen major companies. And if that’s not challenge enough, he has to buck the Texas anti-union, right-to-work laws.

That’s where the Union Plus program makes a big difference. “It really helps sell the union, especially with new hires,” he said. “They already have some benefits, and they’re afraid of possible work stoppages. But Union Plus is only available to those who sign up, and we do a good job of telling them what they gain.”

“We once organized the largest non-union elevator company in the state,” Murnan recalled, “and one guy didn’t want to join because under union rules, he’d be downgraded from mechanic to apprentice. But when we showed him that with the Union Plus mortgage and credit card programs, he’d be making more money, he joined.”

Local 21 has an advantage over some other unions: new hires must come to the union-run apprenticeship training facility once a week. “In order to get to the school,” said Murnan, “they have to go through the main lobby, where we have Union Plus displays and racks of literature.”

In addition, the promotional material is included in the new member packets, and Murnan and his colleagues make a point of explaining the benefits.

“The biggest selling point, Murnan explained, is the mortgage program. “It saves them a ton of money,” he said, “about 35 percent of the new people go for the program” But everybody participates in the credit card. “Most members have that.”

Murnan said he knows that many members use the Union Plus website, and that he himself says he’s used the Union Plus car rental discounts in the last year. “It’s a great program for us,” he said.