By Max Swaim
April 08, 2011
At 14 I got my first job part time with at a diesel shop in town doing miscellaneous shop duties sorting bolts, sweeping up, etc. I then went into the carpentry trade and began building houses. I moved down south and wanted to try my hand at college. In the meantime living in Phoenix, AZ I saw a lot of building going on. Mass amounts of houses being produced on a scale I had never seen. I needed a job to get part time money while at school. What I learned next is that Phoenix is a so called right to work state. There were hardly any unions and many of the men I worked alongside were illegal immigrants. My pay was $8 per hour as a lead carpenter. How was I supposed to live on $8 per hr? I was making $18 per hour at 18 years old here in Ketchikan when I left working non union. I needed a voice. I couldn't just quit since all the jobs around the area were paying the same amount of money, I didn't know what to do. I decided to see if I could try my hand at waiting tables, since it was making me the same amount of money or more at times plus I was in the air conditioning.
My love for the trade I came to learn never left. I really missed AK and decided to move back. I moved to Anchorage in 2002 and started building for Spinnel Homes, a premium home builder in the Anchorage area. Earning $19 per hr. I felt that it was a good wage. Then I found out that I would be having a little girl and had no insurance or benefits of any kind and that money I was making would not be how I wanted to raise a family on. I looked into the union. I joined and that was the best day of my life. I was credited for the documented hours I had and still went through three years of additional training. All the union dues the gentleman was talking about, go to retirement, training, and medical insurance. It's not a big amount, but it's definitely there.
I came to find out that the only way to be in the position I am in today is to be a union worker or to own my own building company. The union has done a lot for me, the pay is excellent and the projects I get to work on are the biggest we have in Ketchikan. Union Carpenters are highly trained, U.S. citizens who would like to earn a little more money. And I am thankful to be one.
About: " I am a proud union carpenter building Alaska one building at a time"
Received April , 2011 - Published April 08, 2011
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