Learning the Trades

May 1st is May Day, traditionally a day to recognize laborers and tradespeople, whether in manufacturing, building arts, landscape management or a variety of other industries. Among the employment opportunities for GOSO participants, through our GOSOWorks program, are positions with trade unions such as Local 79, the Construction & General Building Laborer’s union.

“Having the opportunity to work for a union is beneficial to our participants because it teaches them the power of collective bargaining,” said Nick Zolnierowski, GOSOWorks Manager. “Through union work, they recognize their own worth even more and take on a sense of personal accountability. Unions help to protect workers’ rights, and this is important especially as it relates to the population we serve because people with justice-involvement have generally had to fight for their rights in many ways.” Participants’ initial three-week apprenticeship placement, during which time they acquire important introductory and on-the-job training experience, is subsidized by GOSOWorks .

Michael Clark at the 2019 fundraising gala with (left) Geoffrey Golia, Associate Executive Director, and (right) Paul Gutowski, former GOSO staff member and gala emcee. Photo: Brooke Alexander / Studio Brooke.

Meet Michael C., one of three GOSO participants currently working for Local 79, and hear from him what the experience of working for a union has been like so far. Happy May Day!

What’s your job title, and how long have you been with Local 79? I’m a Laborer and have been working with the Construction and General Building union since November 2019, so 6 months so far.

Tell us about your job as a Laborer. How does this experience differ from other jobs you’ve had before? This is a valuable opportunity for me because it has the potential to provide me with secure employment for the next several years. After I graduate the program, I’ll have completed 4,000 hours of work in this trade. Other jobs I’ve held in the past lacked the benefits that I’m eligible for now: medical, annuity, and pension. And I feel safe on my job site, since the union oversees standards and enforces safety regulations, which is really important for the kind of work I’m doing.

What do you enjoy most about your job with Local 79? My favorite part of the job is working side-by-side with my co-workers, cleaning, lifting, using tools … I really enjoy supporting my team.