By MARY ANN HOLLEY
Costel Zamfir, a 26-year member of Elevator Constructors Local 3, has been elected the Local’s new business manager, filling the position vacated by the retirement of Business Manager John Orr.
Zamfir, a Romanian immigrant, is not just proud to be elected business manager, he’s overwhelmed to represent a union membership that is afforded such outstanding opportunities as those provided to him as a union member in the United States of America.
“Someone asked me why I was able to give up what I do out here (as an Otis technician), and I tell them how I feel: that it will be awesome to give support to the whole membership,” Zamfir said. “Sometimes you dream, but I will do my darn best to help anyone who needs any kind of help.”
Former Business Manager John Orr said Zamfir, who was elected with overwhelming support of the membership, will “do nothing but a great job.”
“With two guys running against him, he won by a two-to-one margin,” Orr said.
Zamfir got his start in Romania’s government-run elevator construction factory. He said he was just 17 years old when he started, noting that in Romania you have a choice of continuing your academic studies or moving into a trade.
“My dad was an elevator man; that’s how I got in the trade,” Zamfir said. “When I finished 10 grades, I said I didn’t want to finish school. So, my dad said OK, and here I am.”
Zamfir later went to technical school for electro-mechanics and finished high school in the evenings while he worked building elevators.
“Being business manager is definitely something new for me,” Zamfir said. “All my life, I worked with my hands. When I came here, my first job was a truck driver for about six months, then I got into the trade as an elder.”
Zamfir he was hired by Otis Elevator in 1994, and is proud to say that in the 22 years he worked there, he was never laid off.
“They had an incredible program, encouraging employees to continue education, available once you complete your apprenticeship program,” Zamfir said. “I was on Otis website, and I couldn’t believe they would pay for me to learn about the Labor Movement in the United States.”
He was amazed that his experience and training could be counted for college course credits for an associate degree in elevator technology through Ivy Tech in Indiana. He went on to graduate from the National Labor College.
“I completed a bachelor of arts in Labor Studies, and Otis Elevator was paying for my continuing education if I was willing to go,” Zamfir said.
He was, and went on to earn a master’s degree in business from Capella University.
OVERWHELMED BY MEMBERS’ TRUST
Zamfir previously served as a union trusted for nine years when, he said “nobody else wanted it.”
He was working as an apprentice instructor when Orr announced his retirement as business manager and said one of the mechanics suggested he run for the position
“I really didn’t believe I would get the support of membership, but I figured the worst I could do is lose,” he said.
“I got a standing ovation on that night. It was a really nice pat on the back, the members offering me their trust.
“I had no interest in being a supervisor or in company management. I like to support working men and women and will do my best to keep our union strong.”
Zamfir said he plans to stay involved in apprenticeship training, noting how much he enjoys teaching others the trade.
“It is such a joy when you get a call from someone,” Zamfir said. “When you get a call in four or five years, and someone thanks you for your help and says they wanted you to know they got their mechanics license.”
Now he’s looking forward to leading the entire membership.
“At the election meeting, they had the option to come or not,” Zamfir said, “but they came.”
Zamfir and his wife Lisa have two children, a son, Constantine, 21, and a daughter, Gabriela, 26.