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  1. #1

    Join Date
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    Default Union work?

    Just looked up the start wage for a first-year apprentice in my local Iron Workers union and saw that, even in the first year, right out of the gate, they make more money than me.

    Was thinking about possibly shifting gears. I've always enjoyed working with my hands and turning wrenches. I was wondering if anyone could lend some helpful advice about the easiest ways to get in; I'm in Philadelphia, but will go where the money is. I have a BA in nothing relevant, and a certificate in welding (stick and mig, mostly).

    Can probably pass a drug test (as ridiculous as that probably sounds), no felonies (as ridiculous as that sounds), and I'm a quick learner.

    at 25, is this kind of career shift feasible? Or should I just keep hustling my advertising experience around?

  2. #2

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    If you are 25 and there is any possible way for you to get in, do it. You are probably going to have to buddy up to someone who is already in, your education won't mean shit, your welding cert means even less (you will have to test on their process like a real welder).
    When I was in my late 20's I turned down an opportunity to become a union pipe welder because at the time I was making more as an independent, that soon changed, and I have regretted it ever since.

  3. #3
    JetBlackII
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rubman View Post
    Just looked up the start wage for a first-year apprentice in my local Iron Workers union and saw that, even in the first year, right out of the gate, they make more money than me.

    Was thinking about possibly shifting gears. I've always enjoyed working with my hands and turning wrenches. I was wondering if anyone could lend some helpful advice about the easiest ways to get in; I'm in Philadelphia, but will go where the money is. I have a BA in nothing relevant, and a certificate in welding (stick and mig, mostly).

    Can probably pass a drug test (as ridiculous as that probably sounds), no felonies (as ridiculous as that sounds), and I'm a quick learner.

    at 25, is this kind of career shift feasible? Or should I just keep hustling my advertising experience around?
    ever concider copywriter? you should go teamsters... unions are mostly like a corporate church these days... lots of dues wanting hand outs and a lot of lipservice... too much of that shit helps chase jobs across lines in the dirt.

  4. #4

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    I don't know anything about union work; I just wanted to say not to let your age even enter your thoughts. I went from successful chef to merchant mariner in my mid thirties. Four years in and I'm a certified engineer with full benefits and looking at a retirement age of 56. Only thing slowing you down is you. Good luck.

  5. #5

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    Haven't you been writing for Maxim and shit lately? As a heavy equipment mechanic I say save your body from the beating, stay in a cushy air conditioned/heated spot and keep writing. Money isn't everything in life man. But by all means if you are unhappy and want to do something else then go for it.

  6. #6

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    Fuck all the above. Join the Air Force, work at least 20 years, then retire and become work-optional for the LAST THIRD of your life. (I suggest staying well over 20 for the pay bumps.) I enlisted during a Recession and vowed to get a good job with great benefits and an early retirement. Uncle Sam delivered.

    Good training, mostly chill atmosphere though some utter pussies whine about it, lots of fun places to be stationed especially since Sand Box tours tapered off (not that the Chair Force has it remotely rough on any deployment) and lots of good times. There are many global bases you can get orders to and often homestead. Alaska is also very popular with everyone I met who served there loving it.

    I retired at 47 (enlisted at 21) and would do again without hesitation. Meanwhile my civilian peers actually have to work and sometimes it's not even fun. The Air Force IS effectively a union job with strong legal protections and an excellent working atmosphere in most units.

    I like machinery so I went into aircraft maintenance (OV-10, F-4 Phantom, F-16 as Comm/Nav, engines then crew chief) and loved it, but the medical weenies have more profitable civilian potential and lots of hot females. Maintenance has nearly no hotties. Do not become a cop, security forces, ammo, transportation (unless augmenting the Army on convoy duty looks fun, fuck that), or go in general enlistment. There are lots of tasty jobs available even if you have to go Delayed Enlistment to get a slot. I suggest if you go maintenance to get on airlifters like C-17 because they will outlive your career and a second career if you choose to become a tech rep or similar, but fighters are fun too. UAVs will continue to grow so that's a safe program.

    The math is fun. If you keep your shit together (not hard) you can be financially free to do what you want while you are still young enough to do it. Second careers are common too with senior NCOs and officers working for contractors, Federal agencies, and military equipment manufacturers.

    I'd ramble on but it's time for a hot bath and a packed bowl.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    Fuck all the above. Join the Air Force, work at least 20 years, then retire and become work-optional for the LAST THIRD of your life. (I suggest staying well over 20 for the pay bumps.) I enlisted during a Recession and vowed to get a good job with great benefits and an early retirement. Uncle Sam delivered.

    Good training, mostly chill atmosphere though some utter pussies whine about it, lots of fun places to be stationed especially since Sand Box tours tapered off (not that the Chair Force has it remotely rough on any deployment) and lots of good times. There are many global bases you can get orders to and often homestead. Alaska is also very popular with everyone I met who served there loving it.

    I retired at 47 (enlisted at 21) and would do again without hesitation. Meanwhile my civilian peers actually have to work and sometimes it's not even fun. The Air Force IS effectively a union job with strong legal protections and an excellent working atmosphere in most units.

    I like machinery so I went into aircraft maintenance (OV-10, F-4 Phantom, F-16 as Comm/Nav, engines then crew chief) and loved it, but the medical weenies have more profitable civilian potential and lots of hot females. Maintenance has nearly no hotties. Do not become a cop, security forces, ammo, transportation (unless augmenting the Army on convoy duty looks fun, fuck that), or go in general enlistment. There are lots of tasty jobs available even if you have to go Delayed Enlistment to get a slot. I suggest if you go maintenance to get on airlifters like C-17 because they will outlive your career and a second career if you choose to become a tech rep or similar, but fighters are fun too. UAVs will continue to grow so that's a safe program.

    The math is fun. If you keep your shit together (not hard) you can be financially free to do what you want while you are still young enough to do it. Second careers are common too with senior NCOs and officers working for contractors, Federal agencies, and military equipment manufacturers.

    I'd ramble on but it's time for a hot bath and a packed bowl.
    If you go this route, I wouldn't enlist if I were you, I would go to OCS due to the fact that you already have a degree.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by JockEShift View Post
    If you go this route, I wouldn't enlist if I were you, I would go to OCS due to the fact that you already have a degree.
    OCS slots are hard to get and it can be very difficult to be in long enough to pull any retirement. Promotions for officers can be very political and if you fail to get promoted they kick you out. When I was in the air force I worked with a lot of guys who had their degrees and enlisted to take advantage of a student loan repayment program.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rubman View Post
    at 25, is this kind of career shift feasible?
    Because at 25 you have such an entrenched career history?

    Before making a decision I'd take at other programs such as electrical workers just to see what is available.

  10. #10

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    Iron Worker is a super hard job. I've worked on bridge construction jobs with them and it's no joke. They earn every penny. They are also crazy as fuck as a rule.

  11. #11

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    Rubs is gonna have to get a gnarly fucking tattoo waiver.

    I'm not sure which branch could/would take him with his current level of tattoos.

    It's a bummer for sure. I can't stand how fucking lame tattoo regs are, but I'm not the HNIC so...

  12. #12

    Default

    To what crfyou said, that's the killer. I tried to go into the army (because they had the most lax tattoo policy at the time) a few years ago, and no go. I wrote literally a hundred letters to everyone that the recruiters said had a snowballs chance of helping me, and still nothing. I have tattoos on my head that you can't even see (because my guinea hair is so thick) when my hair is to regs, but still no go.

    Also, I used to be in a union in the radioactive energy business and that shit sucked. Look into any Union you're thinking of joining, because some just straight up suck and only watch out for #1.

  13. #13

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    Some good advise here, but it all comes down to realistic expectations, your skill set, and what you're willing to put up with. Right now, I work a job in the oilfield that would, in most fields, be unionized. I love it. I've been there under two years and I'm looking at six figures this year. Not bad for a blue collar guy with not a day of college.

    That said, I tell people all the time to look elsewhere when they ask about working where I do. The schedule and work atent for everyone, but the real issue is finding a spot in this economy with zero experience. Uphill battle, to say the least. I worked for years in a fab shop, then jumped part time in a county spot, and worked up to the local irrigation district before I landed the job I got. The gubmint jobs have decent benefits, but they aren't always the golden ticket to success and stability everyone makes them out to be.

    Not tryin to talk you out of anything, just wouldnt want to blow smoke up your ass, either. Ask around once you find a specific field you think you would be an asset in (and it always pays to go into it thinking of what you can do for the job, as much as the other way around) and find out what it pays where you're at and what the base requirements are.

    Also, keep in mind that most top-tier trade work wants hair, as well as piss and a physical. Basically, if you can't lay off for about eight months, then it isn't for you in the first place. It sucks on a certain level, but trade work ain't what it used to be in the days when our fathers and grandfather's were swinging hammers and burning rod as apprentices.

  14. #14

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rubman View Post
    Just looked up the start wage for a first-year apprentice in my local Iron Workers union and saw that, even in the first year, right out of the gate, they make more money than me.

    Was thinking about possibly shifting gears. I've always enjoyed working with my hands and turning wrenches. I was wondering if anyone could lend some helpful advice about the easiest ways to get in; I'm in Philadelphia, but will go where the money is. I have a BA in nothing relevant, and a certificate in welding (stick and mig, mostly).

    Can probably pass a drug test (as ridiculous as that probably sounds), no felonies (as ridiculous as that sounds), and I'm a quick learner.

    at 25, is this kind of career shift feasible? Or should I just keep hustling my advertising experience around?
    Absolutely feasible. I would suggest the Operating Engineers as their retirement is one of the best around. I worked on the cranes and the Iron heads ran them. With either union it's easy to move around if you want but there are usually plenty of permanent jobs too. Just wonder into the local and talk to them. In my part of the world if you have any kind of experience you can get on the out of work list with out joining and paying initiation until you are working. Whatever union you decide on talk about the retirement package before you signup not after 30 years I know Teamsters and Laborers that will always have t have a job while retired.
    Dusty
    IUOE Local 953 Steward retired

  15. #15

    Default

    Rubs if ya can, check out local 5 elevator mechanics. I have a few buddies in there and they make crazy money. I myself have been contemplating the jump from Fire/EMS to pipefitter since a family friend is their retired business manager.

  16. #16

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    A coworker of mine was a union iron worker for years, but he left to work a non union job at a metal shop because he would rather be consistently employed year round for half the money than not being sure if he's going to have any work through the winter.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by HulkJoegan View Post
    because he would rather be consistently employed year round for half the money than not being sure if he's going to have any work through the winter.
    Learned this lesson in 1969. Fuck unions and factory work.

  18. #18

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    Damn, thanks everyone for the useful advice.

    Military is an absolute no-go with my tattoos. When my boy was going in for the Navy, I took the air force test just for the fuck of it and passed. But with my tattoos, they said it'd basically be impossible for me to get in anywhere.

    And quite frankly, I don't really give a fuck about what I'm doing. I feel like the whole, "find work doing what you love" shit is for privileged middle class kids whose parents have good jobs. I grew up in a house where work was called "work," not "super happy fulfilling fun time dance party."

    And yeah, I've been doing a lot of stuff for Maxim lately and all that good shit, and my freelance work is doing well. But writing for them and finding something else aren't mutually exclusive. You'd be shocked at how little work I do on those Maxim gigs. It's honestly easy-ass money. And yes, I'm doing well at my job now, I guess. But I'm bringing home about $50/yr, working my ass off (talk all the shit you want about this "cushy air conditioned office," but I'd prefer to be physically beaten over mentally), and just learned last night that's about as much as an assistant manager at the local WaWa makes. A first-year apprentice in just about ANY of the unions out here in Philly makes a considerable chunk of change more than me.

    This year was a really weird year for me, and while I don't doubt that if I stay on the same track as I am, I'll probably eventually find a decent gig as "director of creative blah blah blah" somewhere, some day. But I want to get out of here. I want to have job security. I want to retire eventually. I want to have enough money to take care of my mother, god forbid anything should happen to her. I want a house mortgage AND face tattoos. I'm starting to think big picture, and I really think the future is in skilled labor. I'm not going back to school, I don't want to be an engineer, and I sure as fuck won't go be a fucking cop.

    Where am I an asset? In the office. In the board room with potential clients. In the bedroom. I am NOT an asset in a union or an oilfield, but it doesn't mean I can't be. I work hard, learn quick, and am a perfectionist about my work -- whatever I'm doing. I have a welding certificate, I don't know anyone (I mean, I have some acquaintances in unions, but no one I'd feel comfortable hitting up and being like, "hey bud, can you hook it up?"), and no real experience. I also can't really go get experience, because I have to work. My mom found a job, but she's still not completely financially independent, and she won't ever be.

    The crazy thing is, I'm literally only about 15 grand in debt, and it's strangling me out. My mom is only behind a couple grand on her mortgage, but unless I sell my bike or something, she's going to have a hard time getting ahead of it. I just look at how ridiculously inconsequent ALL of my financial burden is, and it blows my mind that even working as hard as I do, with all the freelance and all the extra hours, I STILL don't have a retirement package, I have eh health benefits (if anything ever happens to me, I'm paying $4k out of pocket before my insurance even looks at me), and I don't even have 3 grand to get my mom out of her financial shit.

    The only thing I know is that I see what $80k a year is worth, and I'm leaps and bounds more valuable than that. I just need to figure out how to make it happen.
    Last edited by Rubman; 09-09-2015 at 10:18 AM.

  19. #19

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    One route to employability is to become versatile. (It's fun as fuck being overqualified.)

    A good community college can be the way to go and with little out-of-pocket expense. Financial aid ninjas at schools are in the business of getting you funded or they have no job so use them. Lottery money, Pell Grants etc.

    If I were entering the civilian trades today I'd take mechatronics because industrial maintenance is fun, interesting and pays well if you get good without breaking down your body. Most people avoid electronics because they have the wrong mindset that it's hard. Don't have that mindset, it isn't hard. (After I finish my CNC program I'll likely take mechatronics as a refresher since I've been out of the AF for a while. Shit is fun.)

    That elevator mech suggestion is a good one. There aren't enough out there for serious competition and businesses MUST have their freight elevators working.

    I suggest that whatever you do, you study all kinds of technology for fun then delve deeper into what makes your pecker twitch. Do self-teach on PC troubleshooting, repair, and OS installation including Linux. Costs nothing if you dumpster fish PCs and then you have both the knowledge and computers everywhere for instant data and parts ordering. I'm always near one and they are much better than phones.

    After a while the different skills you learn blend and you learn faster and much more smoothly because you learned HOW to learn. Constant cognitive challenge is good for mental health.

  20. #20

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    A helluva lot of excellent points and information here. Not to mention the buddys that everyone has. Seems anymore you have to know someone to get in the door.
    I did bridges and cell towers, some high hotel work too, Did environmental contamination tracing and remediation too, really loved that but after the bridges and cell towers I was pretty beat up and at 40 years old mind ya.
    I'm 57 now,, beat the fuck up and it hurts bad some days. I lucked into the position I have now (IT Operations) due to knowing someone. It's nice,,cushy and gives me a lot of time off to do whatever I want.
    (mainly taking of aged parents now) But if I had it all to over,, I woulda done as many here said. Join Air Force or Coast Guard and run for 20 years then out. You shouldn't be too busted up afterwards to really enjoy the second career of something YOU want to do.
    Just my opinion

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