Sebastian Alonzo graduated into “journeyman” status a couple of Fridays ago at the Iron Workers union hall in Norwalk. The 26-year old, who struggled to make it out of high school, completed the five-year training program and now will make top wage – about $33 an hour – in his trade.
“It’s the best achievement I’ve accomplished in my life,” he said, pointing out that his family came there that night to cheer him on.
As part of the graduation ritual, Alonzo and 35 other new journeymen stood in front of a packed audience whose members had traveled from across Los Angeles and Orange Counties to watch the proceedings. The graduates this night included men and women, whites, Latinos, African Americans and Asians. The group – as the cliché goes – looked like America.
Ron Miller, the head of the Los Angeles Building Trades Council, says that it is a “ritual” for trades workers to drive around Los Angeles surveying the jobs they have worked on.
Virtually every person I’ve talked to who is currently building the Wilshire Grand Center tower in downtown Los Angeles plans to bring their friends and family members to the building once it is finished. Electrician Anthony Sotelo wants to book his mother into the Wilshire Grand’s hotel for at least one night so he can switch on the lights that he wired to make sure they turn on.
“You take pride in your work by showing your family what you have built,” he says.
One of the delights of completion is the possibility of taking material and psychological pleasure in what you have created, the ability to tell a full story that reveals the daily successes as well as the discords of a difficult project.