Luke Buckingham gazed hungrily at the motorcycle belonging to one of his fellow apprentices at Ironworkers Local 16. A brand-new Suzuki GSX-R1000 with a cobalt finish, glittering against the broken sidewalk. “Oh man,” he said. “That thing’s a beast. Someday, someday . . . ” The apprenticeship program at Ironworkers Local 16, now part of DC-area Ironworker Local 5, was profiled recently in The Washington Post. To Buckingham, a bearlike 25-year-old with buzzed blond hair, the bike was a symbol of the middle-class life he hoped to someday have — the waterfront house, the boat, the monogrammed bedsheets he imagined himself sliding between. It was why he dragged his 6-foot, 260-pound frame out of bed before dawn to climb along iron beams and weld columns for $21.36 an hour, minus the 4 percent union tithe. Someday, he’d get the superintendent position; someday maybe be a foreman, “just being the top dog.” It was his third year as an apprentice. Twice a week, he and two dozen other apprentices drove to this cinder-block shop just east of the Baltimore city limits to learn drilling, welding, rebar and the values of a union man.
- excerpted from These young ironworkers are betting on new technology — and traditional unions — to achieve their American Dream in The Washington Post by Tara Bahrampour
photo: Taaz Robinson is in the ironworkers training program, trying to get a fresh start after serving prison time. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
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