The work of a Laborer is difficult and dangerous; at times it can even be life threatening. Nobody knows this better than Cesar De Alba, a 28 year member of LIUNA Local 2 in Brookfield, Illinois. Earlier this year on August 17th , while working on a jobsite for Lyons & Pinner Electric in Chicago, IBEW Local 134 member Kevin McLaughlin was electrocuted by exposed cables. This prompted brother De Alba into immediate action.
First, De Alba sought to clear McLaughlin from any more exposure to the wires. Then he instructed UBC Local 272 member John Norling to signal for a coworker outside the cramped mechanical room they were in to call 911.
Next, using the skills and training he received from the Chicagoland Laborers’ Training Fund’s First-Aid class, and with Norling’s help, De Alba laid McLaughlin on his back and began performing chest compressions. At the time, McLaughlin was unresponsive to commands and unable to breathe on his own.
By performing chest compressions, brother De Alba was able to get circulation to McLaughlin’s brain at a time when every second is crucial for survival and recovery. The paramedics who arrived on site to take McLaughlin to the hospital later said that without the heroic intervention of De Alba and Norling, McLaughlin would not be here today.
On October 24th, the IBEW and Lyons & Pinner held a ceremony to honor the brave and life-saving actions of Cesar De Alba and John Norling. Every speaker at this event, from IBEW 134 Business Manager Don Finn to Gary Misicka, President of Lyons & Pinner, thanked these brothers not only for saving a life, but for seeking out training and certification in first aid.
“I live about two miles from the training school, it really works out with the training they provide,” said De Alba, who has taken nearly 30 courses at the Chicagoland Laborers’ Training Fund in his time with LIUNA. His first-aid certification needs to be renewed every two years, but this training, along with every course offered to LIUNA members at training centers across the U.S., is offered free of charge to the member.
Safety and training are emphasized at every LIUNA Local Union, and that attitude is reflected by members like Cesar, who seek to refine their skills and learn new ones when the work season slows down. It is also reflected by the leadership of the Chicago Laborers’ District Council, which is fortunate to have two world-class training schools in their jurisdiction.
At these LIUNA training centers, and in conjunction with the LIUNA Training and Education Fund, members get the benefit of over 50 available courses taught by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited instructors. The curriculum is constantly being refined and updated, ensuring that members are learning state-of-the-art techniques in world-class facilities. LIUNA’s Chicagoland Training Fund is one of only three in the U.S. to have achieved International Accreditation Service (IAS) status as an International Accredited Training Agency.
With a scheduled expansion at one of their facilities, the Chicagoland Training Fund hopes to be able to reach even more members like Cesar, who are eager to develop their skills. When the Homer Street facility in Chicago finishes its expansion, members covered by the Chicago Laborers’ District Council, which includes nine counties in northeast Illinois, will have two facilities to choose from that have a combined footprint of nearly 40 acres and 230,000 square feet of covered space. These facilities will include auditoriums, classrooms and instruction bays, where hands-on learning can be done at the scale and size of real worksites that LIUNA members see every day. Each year, over 7,000 members take classes at these facilities to make themselves safer, better trained and highly skilled Laborers.
Jorge Espinoza, a LIUNA Local 1 member and a trainer for over 18 years at the Chicagoland Laborers’ Training Fund, beamed with pride when he first heard about his former student’s quick thinking and heroic actions. “When I teach this class, I always mention that I personally needed to use this training on my own son when he was four. This is not just a requirement for many contractors – you can save a family member’s life. Never be afraid. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Rich Kuczkowski is the Business Manager of Cesar’s Local, Sewer and Tunnel Miners Local 2. Having worked for decades in underground construction himself, namely on Chicago’s famed Deep Tunnel Project, he knows firsthand the dangers associated with the work of a Laborer. He was clear with his praise for his fellow brother when he said, “Life is a gift. Life presents many interesting and challenging paths for each of us. Laborers have an extremely difficult and dangerous path by the work we choose to do. Having the strength and courage to navigate these obstacles in our paths is inspiring. We were all born with the ability to inspire and change someone’s life. Cesar De Alba, a LIUNA Local 2 member, is that man we aspire to be. His knowledge and training in CPR/AED prepared him to step up and help save a life. God bless him.”
[Patrick Healy is LIUNA’s TriFund Field Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region.]