Hundreds wait on line in LIC for elevator repair jobs

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Photo gallery

James Fisi (second from l.) is the first on line for an application for the Local 3 union. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jwyanza Taylor (r.) calls fellow workers Spartans because they operate in unison. Photo by Christina Santucci
Hundreds of men and a handful of women wait on line for an application. Photo by Christina Santucci
Big Jay Lopez of the Bronx brought a large tent out to cover himself and others. Photo by Christina Santucci
Francine Fischer (c.) was among a handful of women in line. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ricky Garcia (l.) was joined in line by his father, Richard, for company. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jamaica resident Francisco Cruz has his application in hand. Photo by Christina Santucci
Applicants gather together for a photo. Photo by Christina Santucci
James Fisi is the first on line for an application for the Local 3 union. Photo by Christina Santucci

They waited for line for days, sleeping in tents as it rained, saving spots so their comrades could use the restrooms, watching for line jumpers and forming allegiances so strong they nicknamed themselves the Spartans.

And at exactly 9 a.m. Monday , the long haul paid off for some 750 people who received applications for elevator mechanic in Long Island City.

Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers officials estimated at least 800 men and a handful of women had shown up to get their hands on the coveted form, which leads the way to a written test. If passed, the test is factored in along with an interview to rate candidates numerically.

Still, completion of these steps is no guarantee of a job. Of 750 applications handed out, the union could possibly take only 75 people into its four-year apprentice program.

James Fisi, who grew up in Astoria and now lives in Flushing, had gotten a ride from a friend to Long Island City around 7 a.m. May 15.

He spent the following 98 hours waiting in hopes of landing a job where he could work with his hands.

Fisi, 44, who is currently unemployed, waited on a similar queue for an application to the Ironworkers union in 1996 but did not end up getting a position.

This time, he hoped his luck would be different.

As the line began to move Monday morning, Jwyanza Taylor, 32, a U.S. Navy veteran from South Jamaica, called his Spartans to attention, and the group inched forward, closer to the office on 36th Street where the documents were distributed.

Taylor said the percentage of those who would actually become part of the union did not discourage him.

“I just have to get in there,” he said. “It’s steady employment and you get great benefits.”

Jamaica resident Francisco Cruz, 43, is already employed as a car mechanic, but said the union had attractive benefits.

“This is one of the best jobs in New York,” Cruz said after he scored his application. “I’ve been trying to get in there for the last 12 years.”

Cruz, a widower with one child, even called in a favor from his 20-year-old daughter to hold his primo spot near the front of the line so he could find a restroom.

Ricky Garcia, 22, also had some help from a relative. His father, Richard, who is retired, traveled with him from Newburgh to Queens Thursday to keep him company.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Garcia, who works as a laborer installing natural gas pipes. “They teach you everything.”

Martin Conception, from Dix Hills, L.I., said a Local 3 job could further his education.

“If I got this job, it would be funding for school,” he said, explaining his passion for physical therapy.

Conception said after spending several days with other would-be workers, the group had become good friends, looking out for one another and watching for those trying to cut in front of them.

At about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Monday, he said two men with sleeping bags had tried to sidle into the pack, but one applicant who they started calling Paul Revere sounded the alarm. A mob of about 50 guys approached the line jumpers and told them to get lost.

“We’ve been here,” Conception said. “We are out here struggling.”

Updated 6:57 pm, May 23, 2013
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