Union Carpenters Helping to Build COVID-19 Emergency Facilities

April 29, 2020

During these unprecedented times, it’s paramount that we all come together to support one another within the community. As hospitals are quickly filling up, doctors and nurses are short of time and people need treating. The Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (EASRCC) stepped up and offered their skill sets and new “COVID-19 Preparedness Training” to help build emergency facilities across the state.

The Carpenters of the EASRCC have the capability to occupy venues and large facilities for treating the unhealthy and sick. By partnering with the the Army Corps of Engineers, health care professionals and first-responders, facilities were erected at:

  • Bergen New Bridge Medical Center – Paramus, NJ
  • Penn Medicine Patient Pavilion – Philadelphia, PA
  • Cooper University Hospital – Camden, NJ
  • Salem Medical Center – Salem, NJ
  • Atlantic City Convention Center – Atlantic City, NJ
  • New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center – Edison, NJ
  • Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute – Madison, NJ

In Philadelphia, Penn Medicine Patient Pavilion [Penn First Project] carpenters are completing the needed work and adapting to the changing times. The healthcare industry need as many beds as possible, so getting these projects off the ground as soon as possible is important. 60 patient rooms were constructed in 10 calendar days.

“When we couldn’t maintain 6’, we suited up in Tyvek suits. The 2 guys pictured (below) were swinging 8’10” x 4′,” explained Local 158 General Foreman Joe Swaim.

In the midst of this pandemic, EASRCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer William C. Sproule visited the Atlantic City Convention Center to thank the carpenters there and see the facility first hand.

“Here, 250 hospital rooms were built in a day and a half, that’s a heck of an accomplishment,” stated Sproule, “we have to make sure to commend those guys.” 

Bob Peake, Vice President of Facilities Management and Real Estate for Atlantic Health system has seen first hand what union carpenters are doing at healthcare facilities. He spoke during a conference call with members of the Alliance for Action, a non-profit of New Jersey.

“Over the past seven weeks I have seen so many team members of the carpenters local helping us and working hand in hand with the hospital staff,” Peake said, “fearlessly up on the front lines, on the [hospital] floor in the proper PPE, right there next to our team for our patients”

The EASRCC have taken the necessary measures in order to allow members and their families to remain healthy. One measure being the COVID-19 Preparedness Qualification Online Courses Training. This allows us to educate our members and provide them with knowledge that’ll help them to better protect themselves on the job site. “The trained crew that (built the hospital rooms), also took the UBC COVID Preparedness Test,” explained Sproule. It was a priority to staff those who have the knowledge on how to work safely on a medical job site.

“I am just happy to still be working and able to help our awesome healthcare workers any way we can” – Alex Bezy, Local 252

Getting these facilities up and running and treating patients took more than the work of the Union. The US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as FEMA, the Department of Health and State Police, all played a hand in support to fight this virus.

Carpenters in Atlantic City

“Such a phenomenal team to see come together,” said New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan in a video message about the facilities, “a lot of moving parts, but to watch us go shoulder to shoulder and see such a phenomenal sense of partnership and a phenomenal sense of relationship, I’m honored to be a part of it.”

The Atlantic City Convention Center has “taken patients (on April 21st),” stated Callahan. “This is an incredible accomplishment from the many organizations that came together.”

It’s crucial that union workers are provided the training and equipment necessary to complete jobs like these during this time. Construction workers are on the front lines, alongside the doctors, nurses who need all the assistance they can get. Our Council will all get through this pandemic together, stronger and more unified than ever before.