Why did you choose to be a carpenter?
My father was a brick layer so I’ve been in construction as long as I can remember. I had an opportunity with a business agent from the neighborhood who wanted to give me a shot, who knew I would be a good union member because my dad was a union member for 40 years.
Do you have any fond memories of your time in the union?
I would say starting the first day of my apprenticeship; I really looked forward to that. I thought it was a big accomplishment. And I really enjoyed becoming an apprentice. The facility’s great, the teachers are great. I would say that was probably my first happy moment in the industry. Then, in terms of the work…when I did my first roof on my own—when I was trained how to do it—that was a big moment for me.
How did being in the union affect your life and who you are?
I felt that I was more of a hands-on guy rather than a kid who went to college. I came from a working-class area. I got a lot of gratification out of what I do. I still do. I love the skill that it’s provided me and I’ve enjoyed my career.
Any hopes or fears for retirement?
No fears, but hopes that I live long and be able to enjoy the retirement. I mean, there’s a lot of hard work put into gathering your funds and getting your health coverage—you know, some of the benefits that are provided for me and my wife. So I look forward to enjoying some of the benefits that the union provides for us.
Do you have any advice for the newer guys?
Work hard. That’s the number one thing I would say. Show up every day, show up on time, show that you’re capable of doing the work and that you want to do the work. Be your own man. If you’re insulating walls for a long period of time and you want to learn how to do doors and hardware, go up to the foreman or go to the owner or someone in charge and say, “Look, I’m way beyond this, I want to challenge myself and I want to learn how to do more intricate parts of the industry.” There are some guys who will just say, “Hey, I’m making great money and I got great benefits — this is like brain-dead work and that’s great.” We’re fortunate that that is part of our scope of work but you don’t want to limit yourself to that. You always want to strive and challenge yourself to be the best all-around carpenter you can be.