I found pride and purpose in the building and construction trades

I found pride and purpose in the building and construction trades
Antown Cloird (Photo credit: Mike Kinney)

By Antwon Cloird 

Whether it’s through community service or on the construction site, I have been lucky to find my “Pride and Purpose” in building bonds — along with roads and structures — in the City of Richmond.

Since 2004, I have been a proud member of Laborers Local 324, with which I’ve worked on the retrofit to the Richmond Civic Center and City Hall, doing asphalting and demolition. I’ve manned the jackhammer in a retrofit of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and I’ve worked on asphalting on San Pablo Avenue, from El Cerrito to downtown Oakland. My work has taken me to San Francisco for the demolition of the General Hospital, and also to Napa County, where I spent eight months doing intensive hazardous debris removal from the Tubbs Fire of 2018.

In my past, I didn’t always have a constructive purpose. At one point I was on the wrong path of addiction and hopelessness. Working for Local 324 provided me with an opportunity to help build myself up, and my community. You always hear that union jobs provide a good living wage, excellent benefits and transferable skills. But few know how attainable they can be unless they hear it first-hand from someone with whom they can relate, like their neighbor.

I’ve found my experience so enriching that I’ve been on a mission to share it with the whole community. I want my neighbors who are struggling to find their pride and purpose to know what being part of a labor union has done for me.

Particularly young people. Many of our local youth who have graduated from high school may not decide to attend college. That’s OK. The building and construction trades provide a tried and true path to a great income — and one that won’t place its participants into tens of thousands of dollars in debt. In my union, a journeyman can make close to $110,000 annually.

If I had the time, I’d go door-to-door in Richmond sharing my experiences. Instead, I’ve become an organizer of community events that aim to spread the message to thousands of my neighbors.

Last year, I organized a sizable job fair at Nicholl Park with the Southside Economic Empowerment Development LLC, Independent Holiness Church and the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council, with sponsors including Chevron Richmond and Phillips 66. Over 400 attendees at that job fair got to see what I see — a community joining forces to build each other up, while building a better community. It was the latest in a series of job fairs I’ve organized over the years on behalf of local developers, each attracting hundreds of attendees.

You may have also seen similar jobs resources via booths at local festivals, such as Juneteenth and Cinco de Mayo. While these festivals may be about play, not work, I encourage you all to stop by a booth manned by union reps. The main players in terms of hiring in Richmond are locally-owned construction companies and unions, including Iron Workers, Electricians, Plumbers and Steamfitters, Boilermakers, Carpenters and Laborers. We also have the support of locally owned construction companies like Overaa, Alton Construction, W.R. Ford, RV Stich and Ghilotti Brothers Construction.

A job posting on the Internet may catch your attention. But there’s nothing like meeting a labor rep (who might very well be your neighbor) and hearing their experiences first-hand. You’ll make a friend, have an instant job contact and, most importantly, you’ll gain an understanding that you don’t need to be heavily connected or come from wealth to attain a well-paying, highly meaningful career. And don’t let a lack of experience get in your way. These unions offer excellent apprenticeship training programs so you’ll be  job-ready.

Bottom line: local building and construction trade unions are giving people a second chance at a first class life. So the next time we announce a job fair, or the next time you pass by the booths at our popular local festivals, drop in, say hello, and give yourself an opportunity to share in the community spirit of Pride and Purpose.

We need you. Richmond needs you.