From a Pile Driver to the Skies: Building Opportunities and Futures Thanks to Union Carpentry

09.07.2023 Luke Marino

By: Kyle Guilbeaux

As the echoes of Labor Day celebrations reverberate across the city, I’ve taken this time to reflect and honor the transformative power that unionized labor, and the New York City District Council of Carpenters in particular, has had on my life. I’m a member of Local 1556, the union that represents dockbuilders in New York City, and I’m so proud to be one of thousands of hardworking men and women who form the bedrock of New York’s future. 

My journey into the world of dockbuilding started about nine years ago. Back then, I never thought this career was in the cards for me. Yet, I was drawn to the opportunities that the NYC Carpenters Union apprenticeship program offered, and it proved to be a gateway not only to building critical skills but also to forming bonds that have stood the test of time. I was drawn to dock building because the scope of work was vast and challenging, and I was lucky to have mentors within the local who guided me through it all.

I look back with pride on projects like the Statue of Liberty Museum, which have given me a sense of great accomplishment from being part of something so significant. The union’s continuous support in honing my skills and earning certifications has been instrumental in my journey, and I will always carry a sense of fulfillment from leaving my mark on the greatest city in the world.

What strikes me the most about unionized construction is its ability to shape lives. For me, the good wages, quality health benefits, 401K, and retirement planning I received through the Carpenters Union afforded me a stable future. I was even able to leverage my apprenticeship for college credits. This experience is emblematic of how the union encourages growth both within the union and beyond. 

In parallel to my passion for building New York, I’ve always wanted to serve my country. With dreams of flying F-16s and a background as a commercial pilot, I’ve found ways to bridge my experiences in the union with my military pursuits. The skills I’ve acquired, such as leadership, problem-solving, and a knack for mechanics and machinery, are transferable across both worlds, enriching my contributions to the union and our nation.

As I gear up for my upcoming deployment, I’m reminded of the vital role union members like me play in shaping our country. Our dedication to craftsmanship, safety, and teamwork lays the foundation for progress. With aspirations to step into leadership roles in the future, I aim to guide others on their journeys to success, just as I’ve been guided.

Looking back, I’m so thankful that my path from the job-site to the skies was made possible by the unwavering support of my union and the countless working men and women who have uplifted unionized labor for generations.