Santa Carries a Union card
Union workers at Butz Property Restoration offered a holiday rescue from a home disaster
by Gregg Potter, International Union of Operating Engineers #542 Executive Vice-President, Lehigh Valley Labor Council
Sunday, December 25, 2022, began as a freezing day that promised to evolve into a laid-back day with my immediate family. After a long day at the in-laws’ home, it would be a nice break. Or so I thought.
At about 6:45 a.m., my wife went downstairs to finish last minute details for the kids, when I heard a yell! “Merry Christmas, I need help!!” I ran downstairs and heard a strange “whoosh” sound and found my jaw dropping as I saw water cascading down the wall of our basement. The water was relentless and there was already four to five inches of water on the floor. A sump pump in a French drain was displacing the water, but it wouldn’t take long before that was overloaded. I ran to the hot water heater and turned off the water source and we started to get our thoughts together. I contacted the Topton Volunteer Fire Dept. and surprisingly, a crew of seven volunteers showed up in about six minutes. Although there was significant flooding, there was not enough water for the firefighters to use their pump.
A couple of friends came over and helped to identify the area where the break took place. A piece of pipe, approximately one inch long, burst due to the extreme cold weather and a “shark bite” was installed to allow us to have water throughout the rest of the house. While all this was happening, my mind was just spinning trying to formulate a plan of action. I contacted Don Snyder, Business Agent for the Plumbers Union #690. Don put me in touch with one of his contractors, Tim Hauff Plumbing. Don offered to have him out on Christmas, and I deferred to Monday.
One of the people who also came over was my good friend, Fran Loughney. Widely known throughout our area’s labor community, Fran is a retired carpenter and former officer with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters #167. During one of our many conversations, Fran told me about a special division of Alvin H. Butz Inc. and how they handle fire and water damages. I gave the folks at Alvin H. Butz a call, and a receptionist answered and promised a callback within the hour. They were right on the money!
A little over an hour later, Chris Lake, Project Manager for Alvin H. Butz Inc. Property Repair & Restoration arrived. Chris displayed empathy and professionalism, and immediately told us that although there was significant damage, they would take care of everything and get us up and running in no time. Although we realized there was an ungodly amount of work to do, we were on the right path.
Monday morning, Tim Hauff came to our door at 9:00 a.m. and had the plumbing repairs completed by 10:45 a.m. A little over an hour later, Chris Lake, Project Manager for Alvin H. Butz Inc. Property Repair & Restoration arrived. Chris displayed empathy and professionalism, and immediately told us that although there was significant damage, they would take care of everything and get us up and running in no time. Although we realized there was an ungodly amount of work to do, we were on the right path.
Chris told us in a nice way, that the biggest part of the job was packing up the many items we had in the basement. He arranged for a storage pod to be parked outside of our home as well as a construction dumpster. A cleaning/packing crew was dispatched that week, and they helped finish the job that my wife and I had started.
With even the smallest construction jobs, communication is a key component in organizing sub-contractors and keeping the homeowner up to date on pricing, product availability and schedule changes. It is not for the weak of heart. Chris Lake and the Butz Co. were flawless here. Chris took mitigation readings, and we had a pretty good idea of what was to come next. When our insurance adjustor made an appointment to come to the house to provide an estimate, Chris made it a point to attend and be available for any questions. This procedure probably saved a week or more of time in the overall process.
The schedule was then set identifying which group would start and when the next one would interact. We knew exactly what the next steps would be, and it was a joy seeing two or more trades working together in a professional fashion. A father and son team, Phil Guerra and Corey Guerra from Carpenters #431, started the work and provided demolition and removal on some of the bigger pieces. They then tore up the floor to set up commercial grade drying. These two spent several weeks at our home and were unbelievable!
Chris Bernini, International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council #21, from Dectis Painting came in with Forewoman Jan Behler and planned out their route and communicated with the union carpenters so there was no disruption. Jan, who was an officer for the local for many years, took original paint samples and came up with as exact a match as we could ever hope for! Brian Reichard from Ace Electric, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers #375, removed and replaced several outlets and did so seamlessly while the carpenters tore up the floor. We finally concluded that we were on our way.
Trying to balance the purchase and delivery of new flooring and new furniture was no easy task. The Butz Co. made this process easy. Knowing that flooring would be costly, we were able to make some changes to keep the budget intact while investing in a better floor. Difficult decisions were made easy thanks to the experience that Chris Lake has.
Working with the insurance company was challenging enough and, thankfully, the Butz Co. had their facts down and substantiated the required work. We often speak about how well the construction trade unions work with each other. They work well together, and in many cases, know each other. There is a mutual respect for their respective work that is palpable. It was heartening to witness this first-hand.
In looking back, the most difficult part of this experience was the fear of the unknown. My family and I never had to deal with damage of this proportion and just learning about the many procedures that take place can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, I knew about the Butz Co. and have such good friends like Don Snyder from the Plumbers #690 and retired union carpenter Fran Loughney. They set my family on the right course. Little did I know that we would benefit greatly from their advice.
I hope that none of you ever experience significant damage to your home, whether it be water, fire or other acts of nature. If you do, I sincerely recommend that you contact the Butz Co. You won’t find a better organization anywhere. They are the total package and are an unbelievable corporate neighbor. Most of us will never know all that the Butz family does to support our community. I have been fortunate to see their family in action, and I know where their collective hearts live. They are nothing less than remarkable. Several years ago, our Lehigh Valley Labor Council honored Lee Butz as our Business Partner of the Year at our annual awards banquet. I have been fortunate to serve on The Century Promise with Lee and we all are lucky to have the Butz family in our communities.
When we are sworn in as delegates to the Labor Council, we all pledge to support union companies whenever they are available. My family chose to employ union tradesmen and women for our home restoration. The results speak for themselves. For more information, check out: https://butz.com/.
This article was originally printed in News & Views, Lehigh Valley Labor Council, AFL-CIO’s April 2023 newsletter.