High School Diploma to Property Owner: Story of a Union Carpenter
Sinade, Bronx, NY
Union Carpenter, Local 157
“The union is my everything. A lot of people are unaware of how the union can change someone’s life. It changed mine and I wouldn’t have the things I have, and I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for the carpenters union.
Being a member of the carpenters union and working on a union job site means I’m safe and I have the quality benefits and the opportunities to succeed and build a stable career. The union turns a job into a career by providing the tools you need and a real pathway forward to make something for yourself and your family.
I was born in the Bronx and I’ve lived here my whole life. My grandmother was a union nurse and gave up her career to raise my six cousins and me. Looking back on that now, I know it wasn’t always easy! ButmygrandmotheralwaystoldmeIcoulddo anything, she believed in me and taught me to work hard and always give back. My grandmother is my hero.
At the age of 18, I earned my high school equivalency diploma and became involved with the carpenters union after seeing an advertisement in the subway for Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW). I applied and completed a six-week training program at night. I put in a lot of hard work and really felt I was on my way to building something good for myself – and I was right.
One week after graduation I was selected as a general carpentry apprentice by the New York City District Council of Carpenters – which represents the local unions for carpenters, concrete carpenters millwrights, dock builders and timbermen, cabinetmakers and woodworkers, and floor coverers in New York.
From my first day on the job, I knew that there was nothing I’d rather be than a union carpenter. I choose carpentry because of the work ethic I saw first- hand from my mentors. It reminded me of all those lessons I learned from my grandma. Work hard and give back – that is at the core of what it means to be a union member.
I’ve worked my way up and am now a business representative with the District Council. Because union carpenters and contractors value workers and our families, we get full benefits like great health care, paid time off, a retirement plan, ongoing training, and real career opportunities. And that allows us to provide for our families, go on vacations, and save money. Full benefits like these are harder to find, but more and more necessary to get ahead and build a stable life and career.
When I first got into the union, my grandmother was looking for a place to stay – and because of the good pay and all the benefits, I was able to purchase a co-op for her and we live in the same building in the same neighborhood where I grew up. Helping my grandmother is the best thing I have ever done in my life. I couldn’t have even dreamed of that before the union.
Now I spend a lot of time in the community and going to high schools and career fairs to talk to students about opportunities and training they could have as a union carpenter. It’s important to me that I give back by supporting my family, teaching and mentoring members coming into the program, just as I was and just as my grandma taught me to.”