I was in my daughter’s kindergarten class a couple of years ago and I was talking to another parent at the school who happened to be an electrician and an IBEW member. He was telling me about the benefits of being a union member. He knew I was a welder and suggested I look into apprenticeship at UA.

Joining the UA as an apprentice meant that I would have to take a pay cut at first. That was a scary prospect. I have six kids, and I am the only breadwinner in the family. I had to do some soul searching but in the end, when the door opened for this opportunity, I jumped through.

As a second year apprentice, I work for Walter E. William, a mechanical services contractor and I attend school in the evenings to hone my skills.

I know being a union plumber will provide me and my family better opportunities in the future.

Beyond work, I have gotten the chance to use my skills and training to help others in my community. You see, I live in Flint, Michigan, where city officials admitted in October that our water contained unsafe lead levels that could make people sick. When the news first broke, I heard that the city was going to train some folks to go out and perform filter installations. Instead, with one phone call, UA Local 370 had almost 400 union plumbers volunteer to help. I’m one of them. Shoulder-to-shoulder, house-by-house we have installed filters, and in some cases faucets, in homes across Flint.

And, in every house we visit, we also check the type of pipes leading into the house. If they have lead or galvanized pipes, the house may need to have the main line replaced. We let the homeowner know which type of pipes they have, and we also tell the Department of Public Works since its records haven’t been converted to computer files yet. What’s going on in Flint is serious and it breaks my heart. I’m just glad that I can help.

I’m proud to be an apprentice at the UA Local 370, and I’m proud to be helping my community right now in its time of need.