The Abbud family may seem like any other ordinary family, but some members would be surprised to know that the family is something of a legacy in the union going all the way back to 1970. Hold on to your tool belts but the Abbud family is made up of 18 dockbuilders who, over the course of four generations, have proudly carried a union card. That certainly gives new meaning to “Union Strong!”
We sat down and had a conversation with Kathleen Abbud, a proud 69-year-old woman who describes herself as a “daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister-in-law to dockbuilders.” While she isn’t in the union herself, she talks about her family and the longstanding involvement with their local.
Kathleen’s father, a steelworker originally, decided to join the NYC Carpenters Union in hopes of a better life. Her father, Jack Kozak, excelled as a welder in the union and eventually encouraged one of his son in-laws to join, and then encouraged another one to join. Following in Jack’s footsteps, Kathleen’s husband, Kalil (Mike) Abbud, joined the union once he saw the benefits of being in a union.
From there, the dockbuilder legacy grew quicker than the NYC skyline in its heyday. Kathleen described family dinners and holidays where the conversations always went right to dock building and the union. “You need to understand that my father Jack, my husband Kalil, and our brothers-in-law, Mike Malaniak, Jack Burkhardt, and Howie Porsche, all had the union in common. Every conversation was about work.”
They say that imitation is the best form of flattery and with conversations always focused on union jobs, it’s no wonder that her children also pursued careers in the union. What local? Well, of course, Local 1556.
“Three of my children are dockbuilders and two are still active and working. They would listen to these conversations at the dinner table and on holidays, all stories of being in the dockbuilder union. I have eight nephews as well in the union, along with two grandchildren.”
Kathleen spoke with several family members and did the math. There are 18 union members who have a combined total of 266 years in the union, and they have been employed in over 40 companies from 1970 to now. To Kathleen, this reflects the loyalty they have for the union and the skills and dedication her family, immediate and extended, have towards their trade. “You know, a lot of people have the idea that if you join a trade union you can’t have any sort of career progression and that’s just not true!
Many of my family members have risen in their positions in the trade. My daughter was a Shop Steward at one point. My two grandsons are both Foremen. One of my sons was a General Foreman and now he’s Vice President of Operations for a large unionized pile driving company. I mean, the opportunities in the union are endless if you work hard.”
Over the last 40 years, many notable jobs have stood out in the family. Kathleen remembered two major jobs., including her father working at the 138 St. Sewage Disposal Plant on the Hudson River and another where he worked on the Rostron Powerhouse in Newburgh, NY. For that one, he had to relocate for some time due to the distance from the project to their family home. “My mom and dad packed up and rented a hotel for the duration of that project. My dad was working 15 hours a day, so it made sense to rent a room in a hotel. He didn’t mind though. He was happy to do it.”
“My family loves what they do. I can’t emphasize that enough. They are union men and women, and they love their work. They look at the union as a brotherhood and a sisterhood.”
Kathleen was quick to assure that the union legacy wouldn’t be ending anytime soon. “Some family members still have years to go in the union, and others are already considering the career path. My grandson Elijah has his heart set on getting into Local 1556. He’s put in his papers and is trying very hard to complete all of his certifications. That would make it 19 proud union members.”
Kathleen has one piece of advice for anybody who wants to build a career in the union. “Get ready to learn from the more experienced people around you. Those are the mentors you’ll learn from. They can show you the way. Work hard and you will get your benefits and your retirement. That right there is your future and your family’s future.”
The four generations of Abbud dockbuilders are: Jack Kozak, Father Kalil Abbud, Husband Joao Abbud, Son Alex Abbud, Son Yvonne Abbud, Daughter Alexander Abbud, Grandchild Trevor Abbud, Grandchild Mike Malaniak, Brother-in-law Jack Burkhardt, Brother-in-law Howie Porsch, Brother-in-law Dan Porsch, Nephew Erich Porsch, Nephew Vinny Cassilli, Nephew Jon Daza, Nephew Bryan Daza, Nephew Jackie Burkhardt, Nephew Jamil Scomparin, Nephew Jorge Abbud, Nephew