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ELECTRICAL BIEBER: For Five Days Last Week, Hundreds of Men and Women Camped Out for a Shot at IBEW Apprenticeship

Beginning last Wednesday in Long island City, New York, over 800 people waited in line to apply for union apprenticeship.  Some waited over five days and nights for a chance at a rewarding career as a union elevator mechanic.  

Most of the apprentice hopefuls had the same motivation in mind: a higher quality of life for their futures and families.  

Every 18 to 20 months, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 dispenses 750 applications. 150 to 200 of these applicants will eventually become apprentices. Those who pass the test and are accepted will earn $17 an hour as an apprentice.  Upon completion of the program they will become journey-workers earning between $35 and $40 an hour with a pension and health benefits.

Despite having to rent ‘port-a-potties’ and employ a security guard to handle the crowd,  Nicholas LaGuardia, director of the union’s elevator division, told the New York Times this is the easiest way to go about the process.

“If we did it online or we did it like a mail-in, we’d have to go through 10,000 applications,” he said.

The dream of steady union work, powerful enough to make grown men camp out like teenagers trying to score Justin Bieber tickets, is perhaps best explained by article commenter Danny V from Boston:

This country desperately needs unions to survive. Are they perfect? No. But they are a hell of a lot better than for profit businesses whose only concern is turning a buck on the backs of the working class. I have worked on and off as a skilled tradesman for 20 years in non union shops but worked on many sites where there were union tradesman…we always had to finish our jobs earlier and faster(sacrificing workmanship and safety) than the union trades with much less pay, job security and decency.

At 9AM this Monday, the doors opened and the line began to move.  Union representatives rewarded the potential brothers and sisters with the applications they desired. Upon receiving his application, 20-year old Gerry Dubatowka promised,

“I’m going to spend the next four days in the shower.”


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