LOCATION: Oxnard, CA
I was a union carpenter for 36 years and recently retired. I specialized in metal stud framing on commercial buildings. My grandfather was also a union laborer and my father followed in his footsteps. My son is now working as groundman, making it our fourth generation in the trades.
My family is of Mexican heritage, but my grandparents were born in the United States. Many of my grandfather's siblings went into field work, but my grandfather went into the trades and always seemed to live well. He owned two homes and drove a new car, which I think influenced my father to go into the trades. The stability I experienced growing up had a similar impact on me.
I always loved working with my hands, and my uncle once told me he thought I'd make a good carpenter. I eventually took his advice, tried a carpentry job and loved it. I joined the union one week later. That was 1982 — and it's basically been one job after another ever since, right up to retirement.
I feel fortunate for everything I helped transfer from blueprint to reality. One was the renovation of the St. John's Hospital in my hometown of Oxnard, California. I was born at that hospital and my father and grandparents passed away there, so this project was bittersweet. I did framing, drywalling and exterior lath work over a period of two-and-a-half years.
Another highlight was working with my father on a building at UCLA. We had lunch together every day, which allowed me to see a whole different side of him. My father grew up Catholic and spoke with a certain formality at home. But when he got around his crew… let's just say he spoke more like a construction worker.
I may have saved the best for last when I worked on the new SoFi Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers NFL teams. My workmates took lots of photos of me on my final jobsite, some of which hang on my walls at home. I hope my grandkids think of me every time they drive by or see this stadium on TV.
Red Wing boots have been another constant in my family. My grandfather and father liked to say it takes four things to earn 30 years of paychecks and a pension: a good back, good tools, a good truck and good boots. Boots are extra important to metal framers like me who carry 40 pounds of tools. The cushioning and support are key to preserving your back, your knees and your earning years.
My family also likes to say that if you look like a professional, you're going to act and work like one. Having Red Wing boots on makes you look like you're one of the best. When I bought my very first pair, my dad saw the box and said, ‘Now you're a real construction worker.' I think that wearing Red Wings all these years helped me to secure the better jobs, because it said something about how serious I am. When I was in a hiring position later in my career, it made a huge difference to me what people had on their feet during the interview.
Beyond the work, I have loved being involved with the Helmets to Hardhats program that helps military service members transition to civilian life through training in the trades. Our local has worked with more than 200 veterans. It has been an honor for me to mentor many of them.
What an amazing journey it's been. Now that I'm retired, I'm surprised how often I still put my carpentry skills to use. Seems like something needs fixing around the house every day.
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