I grew up in Lake Hiawatha, went to Parsippany High School. My family was working class; my mother was the only parent in the house after middle school and she was constantly working to provide for my sister, brother and I. That being said the cost of college always haunted me and when it came time to choose, with the help of my guidance counselor, Mrs. Bush, I decided to apply for an apprenticeship at Pipefitters local 274, and it changed my life. It has given me a decent pay, health insurance, training and a resource for protection. I know for a fact these are rare things in the private sector of trades work because my brother worked with a plumbing company based in Fairfield for five years with no health insurance, stuck making the hourly rate of a first year Pipefitter apprentice. On top of that working in terrible safety conditions. He only recently joined the local after enough was enough.
I had no intention of speaking but when I heard the woman from the ABC make claims that the union was “exploiting minority workers” I became very angry. It felt like a clear projection coming from the people that exploit minority and immigrant workers the most, paying them scraps and skipping out on safety standards.
I felt that no one who spoke against the PLA had ever been on a job site because there is a clear distinction of union sites safety practices and a non-union. We aren’t numbers on a paper; this is our livelihood, and we should be able to make a decent living and make it home safe every night.
I think I’m a good example of how more quality apprenticeship opportunities through unions can help Parsippany overall. I’m able to contribute back to the town more now than I ever would if I did not have this opportunity.