This article is dedicated to the men and women who work in the field. Yes, contractors in our industry take 100% of the risk, but they can do nothing alone. It takes the combined effort and integrity of the tens of thousands of dedicated union craft workers who together build our communities, our states and our nation. They deserve respect and should be honored for their efforts every day.
It angers me that sometimes those who work in our industry do not get the recognition for the expertise they bring to their jobs – not to mention their work ethic and the sacrifices they make pulling two or even three-hour commutes each way to support their families. Success is not a cubicle and a keyboard for everyone. Our craftsmen and women create things of lasting value with their heads, hearts and hands — and often make a very good living doing so. Some people simply can’t appreciate the fact it might not fit their ideal of what “success” is in America today.
My dad was a union Carpenter and went on to become a union contractor. My grandfather and great-grandfather were blue-collar Italians who went on to become builders in San Francisco. They all worked their asses off. Their work ethic was legendary. It was their example — not my college GPA — that made me who I have become. The roots of America were forged by working people. And construction, most interestingly, has been the economic ladder used for more than a hundred years by those who wanted a better life. First the Irish, Italians, Chinese, Eastern Europeans and African Americans climbed that ladder. Now Mexican and Central American craftworkers are doing the same. Some were discriminated against or looked down upon at first, but they kept going, fueled by their total commitment to their own potential, their families and their future. They chipped away enough to create a handhold on the American Dream. They deserve the honor and respect for their hard-won success against so many odds.
In today’s society, young people often admire those who have made fortunes by creating ideas. Yes, we are in the “idea economy” today, and to a lot of young people it looks easy and accessible. But the world doesn’t operate solely on a fast-money digital platform. Working people still form the backbone of what makes America great. I have tried hard in my parenting to pass that message on to my children. The lady at McDonald’s in her paper hat; the maid at our hotel; the truck driver in that rig; the janitor at your school; the waitress at Chili’s – they are not there to serve you. They are there because that is the best job they can get to take care of their families. And they may have another job on top of it. And you, I tell my children, will pay attention; you will stop and appreciate them. And you will not take for granted any advantage life provides for you. Working people work hard, and they will be respected for it.
Construction Unions and Associations have a similar philosophy. They support and serve union contractors who are committed to providing their workers what they need and deserve. Those who work for union companies receive some of the highest pay and best benefits in the nation, and they know that is something to live up to. There are cheaper ways to do contracting – but it is often on the backs of those who do the work. These contractors (many of whom carry frayed union cards in their wallets) understand their people and have a kinship with them that transcends the paycheck. They understand the importance of working people, and no matter their own success, they know that without those willing and loyal craft workers, there can be no industry.
Honor the field – it’s the right thing to do.