Building Trades

Union Apprenticeships Are More Powerful Than Scorching Heat

August 15, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

First in line: Jonathan Gardell likes his chances of becoming a union carpenter.

First in line: Jonathan Gardell likes his chances of becoming a union carpenter.

New York, NYWith soaring temperatures, packed coolers and barbecues going full tilt, the street scene surrounding the NYC District Council of Carpenters’ Hudson Street Training Center this week had all the hallmarks of a quintessential summertime block party — only with 250 union apprenticeships at stake.

Staten Islander Jonathan Gardell, 29, became first on line when he and a pal arrived last Monday and set up camp outside the NYCDCC Training Center entrance on Clarkson Street. 

The Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the New York City District Council of Carpenters periodically recruits new apprentices to meet industry demands. And when they do, thousands who understand the significance of a good union job usually show up for a shot at the lottery. 

This week, not even a scorching heat index of 100-plus degrees could keep them away. 

“Right now I work at a warehouse, but it’s not some place where I want to be at the rest of my life,” Gardell told LaborPress on Sunday. “I want to have something where I can gain from the experience and build my own house one day. I want to be able to leave something behind for my children. I want to give them a better life than what they have now.”

Family, and the overwhelming desire to provide for them, appeared to be the prime motivation for many hoping to secure one of the 250 apprenticeships. 

Long Island resident James Gancio, 31, brought his wife, mother and 14-month-old daughter Taylor Shea along with him for support. And although there are no guarantees, Gancio, who currently splits his time between construction and his second job as a barber, said being a union carpenters will be “great.”

“I’ll finally have a career where I can provide and support my family,” he said. “That’s what’s it’s all about in the end. I have a 14-month-old daughter, and I want to give her the life I had and better.”

The NYCDCC’s latest recruitment drive comes in the midst of a giant building boom that last year generated some $61 billion for New York. At the same time, however, irresponsible non-union contractors continue to undermine safety standards while sparking a race to the bottom throughout the construction industry. 

Despite the party-like atmosphere outside the NYCDCC Training Center, 29-year-old Jay Marin of Queens, said that his five-day odyssey on line for an apprentice application was hot, tiresome and extremely uncomfortable. And yet, he was still happy to do it for a shot at a career with middle-class wages and benefits. 

“You gotta sacrifice,” Marin said. “Right now, I currently work in construction, but it’s non-union. Therefore, there’s no job security or benefits. I’ve had a situation were the dude didn’t pay me for almost a month. There’s just no job security and I want to start a family, and I can’t do it like that. Also, I’m going to be 30 soon — I need benefits. You’ve got to strive for benefits. You can’t just sit back and settle for less.”

First-time applicant Jarrel Lewis, 23, said being in the Carpenters union represents “family, loyalty, quality and pride.”

“This is the only union I really wanted to get into,” the Brooklyn resident said. 

All applicants were required to obtain a lottery card in person, but the camaraderie among workers on the line allowed folks to hold their spots while taking hours-long shifts. 

“Between the heat and the rain and everything, it’s been really tough,” Gardell added. “But determination and motivation have never let me down. I’m still going the same way I was on Monday. I’m ready to get into this place and begin my career.”

Tune into AM970 on Sunday night at 9 p.m. to hear more voices from the NYCDCC apprentice lottery. 

August 15, 2016

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