John Orr found the college grind wasn’t for him; turns out a union career was

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Recently retired Elevator Constructors Local 3 business manager reflects on a rewarding career

By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
Correspondent

JOHN ORR, recently retired business manager of Elevators Constructors Local 3, has plans to walk the 500-mile trek of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient route stretching across Europe, coming together in northwest Spain.

If you know recently retired Elevator Constructors Local 3 Business Manager John Orr, you may not know that his long-held desire is to walk the 500-mile trek of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient route stretching across Europe, coming together in northwest Spain.

With his retirement effective the first of this year, Orr says he’ll be spending time with family, traveling the world and laughing with his grandkids.

Following Orr’s retirement, Costel Zamfir was elected Local 3’s new business manager, with overwhelming support of the membership.

“With two guys running against him, he won by a two-to-one margin,” Orr said, adding Zamfir will “do nothing but a great job.”

Orr’s last day on the job was Dec. 31, but prior to that he had two-weeks in COVID-19 quarantine. He admits it’s been a crazy year, but says COVID-19 had no bearing on his retirement.

“It’s just a funny feeling,” Orr said. “My wife, Theresa, retired in summer, and I’ve been doing this for 17 years. The job was great, but it’s the people you will miss. That’s what’s tough about retirement.”

Orr served as business agent from February 2004 to 2011 and was then elected business manager in 2011. Prior to that he served as an executive board member and on various committees and was always ready to get involved. Orr was first appointed as International Union vice president in 2013, then re-elected at the union’s last convention.

FOLLOWING THE PATH
“I actually married into the trade,” Orr said. “My father-in-law, Don Eckiss, is a retired elevator constructor.”

Orr said he was doing the college thing after high school, but found he just wasn’t ready for the college grind.

“My father-in-law told me to go to the hall, and I was on my way,” Orr said. “It was only later when I decided I wanted to go back to school.”

Orr got a GED and, in 1993 an electrical electronics degree from Ranken Technical School.

“My wife was a blind date, and we just had our 40th wedding anniversary,” Orr recalled.

It was fate that sent him to the Elevator Constructors trade. “I was only 19 in 1979. I was making my car payment and living out of my parents’ basement when I went down to the hall and got lucky.”

HONORED TO REPRESENT THE UNION
Orr says that for the most part, leading the elevator constructors through their day-to-day issues has been rewarding.

“The most difficult thing about the job was working through high employment. From 2008 to 2015 we lost 25 percent of our membership,” Orr said. “To see guys lose their careers and their homes, and their families fall apart, was horrible. I know all my members and in most cases I know their spouses and their families.”

Orr says he believes the International Union of Elevator Constructors has the best local unions in the Unites States.

“My greatest honor throughout my career has been the trust and support of our membership over these 17 years,” Orr said. “I’ll be happily retired, but I will miss the members.”

Orr said his wife and family have quite a few trips planned, but who knows when they will go. He said a trip to Disneyland is definitely in store for the entire family.

“We spend a lot of time with our kids and grandkids,” Orr said. “Three grandkids – Charlie, 10, Evelyn, 5, and Riley 4 – keep us busy.”

Then there are Orr’s plans for his hike through Camino DeSantiago in Spain. The most popular route stretches nearly 500 miles from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago.

“People have been doing this for over 1,000 years,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be hiking in 2022. Retirement won’t keep me down.”


 

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