For over three years filmmaker/journalist Kelly Candaele has been documenting the construction of the Wilshire Grand Center, whose tower rises 1,100 feet into the air, making it the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
With good union training, wages and benefits, Cathy Nichols, a single mother, was able to provide for herself and her son without fear of impoverishment or medical calamity.
Tristain Frye’s success in life is important not just to her – it’s important to all of us.
Frye, who recently worked on a new building at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, did not have an easy road to becoming a carpenter’s apprentice.
When she was 22, she was sentenced to 12 years in state prison. At that point, the odds were solidly against her.
That is until Tristain was accepted into an innovative pre-apprenticeship program in partnership with the Ironworkers, Laborers and Carpenters unions called TRAC: Trades Related Apprenticeship Coaching at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Read about her in my article on the AFL-CIO blog, Jobs, Not Prisons: Unions Help Formerly Incarcerated Women Build a New Life.
The 16-week program is open to women in the prison who can prove themselves physically able to do the demanding work required in the construction industry: carry heavy loads of rebar,
Dino Degrassi and Jason Campbell engage in dialogues for a living. They also put the electrical wiring into some of Los Angeles’ largest and most recognizable building projects. Every morning at 6:30 the two electricians ride the street level elevator down into the construction site at Wilshire and Figueroa, where the core of the Wilshire Grand hotel is emerging out of the ground. When finished, the 73-story building will be the tallest west of the Mississippi.
Degrassi is a seasoned journeyman – ostensibly a teacher of apprentices like Campbell who work their way through a five-year program, learning as they go.
Throughout the day, the men’s hard-earned craft knowledge guides their conversation. “I try to help Jason work efficiently,” Degrassi says, as he moves along a cement deck tying in conduit. “I want to make sure he paces himself and doesn’t get hurt.”
“There’s a lot of wisdom to be learned from Dino,
When I heard that the new Wilshire Grand hotel was going up at Wilshire and Figueroa, I got in touch with my friends in the building trades unions and suggested a film that followed the hotel’s construction from start to finish – from the first record-breaking cement pour to the topping off and finishing. They were enthusiastic about the idea.
I come from a “building trades family”– my electrician father attempted to instill the love and mysteries of his craft to me during my youth. While I’ve never done construction work myself, I’ve always felt comfortable on construction sites, emotionally at home with the unique atmosphere and rough camaraderie.
I don’t merely want to archive the rise of a building with this film. I want to take a closer look at what the men and women who work there feel about their skills, their work and about the values they cultivate amongst themselves as they diligently move forward and upward.