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,
There is a long tradition in the United States, and perhaps most of the world, of binary thinking when it comes to work.
The construction elevator of One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan is attached to the outside of the 104-story tower. From the ground it looks like a giant zipper, moving slowly up and down as the car, filled with workers and their tools, makes the six-minute, 1,776-foot journey from ground level to the top. (The building’s height was purposefully designed to match our year of independence.)
Riding up in that elevator to the 103rd floor recently, I kept myself a safe distance from the steel gates that protect you but also, unfortunately, allow you to see how high up you are hanging in space. I had to “man up” just to step into the metal box.
Phil English, a shop steward at the tower for LIUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America), one of several unions that have members working to complete the tower, rode up with me. (See LIUNA World Trade Center videos here.) He laughed when he said he wanted to ride on the window-washing contraption attached to the outside of the top floor.