Yes, unions brought us the weekend. But, there are life-changing skills that unions often open up for people who might not have access to them. Something to remember via a strong Labor Day column from Michael Hiltzik in The Los Angeles Times, a piece that celebrates, rather than bemoans, the state of unions.
Martinez, 47, knows what he’s talking about. He’s a third-generation ironworker born and bred in San Pedro. He joined the ironworkers union in 1984 and helped put up the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Anaheim Pond and the new tower at LAX. Since 1998 he’s been the coordinator of the apprenticeship training program for Ironworkers locals 416 and 433, which operates out of a squat industrial building in La Palma.
Every six months the program graduates 50 to 80 workers from apprenticeship to journeyman status. The upgrade roughly doubles their hourly wage to about $33 (plus about $22 an hour in retirement and health benefits) and certifies that they’ve had four years of training in the latest techniques of bridge and building construction, welding, and safety. That’s four years of classroom instruction and physically taxing hands-on training on the program’s model work site out back, doled out at the rate of one full week every three months, with the rest of the time devoted to on-the-job experience.
The whole thing is worth a read.