Campaign’s video series feature local Labor, management leaders
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Last Thanksgiving, Laborers Local 110 Business Agent Mark Bielicke lost his 51-year-old girlfriend Ann Shannon to COVID-19.
After learning they had been exposed to someone with the virus, the couple immediately went and got tested. The test results were negative. Two weeks later, they started showing symptoms and both ended up in the emergency room.
“With most people, the virus affects the lungs,” Bielicke said in an interview with the Labor Tribune. “But with Ann, it attacked her stomach. Then her oxygen levels tanked, and it resulted in coma and cardiac failure.”
The 27-year Local 110 member is sharing his story in hopes of encouraging other building trades members to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Bielicke, along with 25 other construction professionals, appear in an online video series led by the St. Louis Construction Forum.
‘IT’S ABOUT US’
“Please get the vaccine,” he says in the video. “Our family members, our coworkers, those in our community – they’re people we are going to help when we get vaccinated. It’s not about I, I or me, me. It’s about us. It takes a village, and we have to do this together.”
The campaign, which can be accessed through VaxFactsSTL.com, was developed on the heels of emerging evidence that the nation’s construction workforce is intensely reluctant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
CONSTRUCTION WORKERS MOST HESITANT
According to a new study awaiting peer review by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, construction workers – among all other occupations – are the most hesitant to get vaccinated. In fact, 46.4 percent said they would not likely get the vaccine in a survey.
To combat the issue, several local union leaders, contractors and subcontractors, including Clayco, McCarthy and Millstone Weber, joined together to create the educational campaign, which is led by the St. Louis Construction Forum. In addition to the personal video messages, the website features informative resources about the vaccine, including basic information, risks and concerns.
A GREAT CONCERN
“We are seeing evidence of workforce reluctance to get the vaccine on our job sites and it is a great concern,” said Thom Kuhn, CEO of Millstone Weber. “Construction has been designated an essential industry during the pandemic, and we want to continue to maintain healthy job sites and prevent the spread of infection.
“That hesitancy to get the vaccine on the eve of the busy summer construction season with potentially more work on the horizon if planned federal infrastructure investment is approved is extremely concerning.”
Tom Finan, the Construction Forum’s executive director, said Kuhn agreed to fund the educational initiative for the benefit of the entire industry. Finan’s nonprofit organization is dedicated to facilitating collaboration of all stakeholders in the St. Louis region’s built environment to create inclusive, robust employment and economic growth.
URGENT NEED TO ADDRESS THE WORKFORCE
“The fact that so many diverse elements of the construction industry came together so quickly on this project reflects the urgency of addressing the need to educate the workforce,” Finan said.