Member Spotlight: Brianna Rodriguez

06.22.2023 Luke Marino

Meet Brianna Rodriguez, a stellar fourth year apprentice part of Local 157! Learn how this former Macy’s employee carved out a career for herself as a union carpenter!

How did you get involved with the union?

  • I graduated high school unsure about the career I wanted. I attended college for a little but then stopped. The thought of taking on so much debt from student loans scared me. In the meantime, I took a job at Macy’s and worked on decorations, mannequins, and arranging displays. There was this union carpenter and he spoke with me about union carpentry, telling me I would love it while making a livable wage with benefits, along with having an actual retirement plan. When he spoke about not having to pay expensive loans in order to go through the apprenticeship program, I was sold. I’ve always been good with my hands and thought this could be the career for me. I was a little unsure about this when I joined, working with people so much bigger than me, but after a short time I became really confident in myself.

Do you think the apprenticeship program has given you the skills you need to succeed in this industry?

  • Yes, definitely. I’ve learned so much from the program. I’m on my tools every single day. I’m cutting, measuring, framing, and sheet rocking. I feel prepared to journey out into the field as a journeyperson. I also found a mentor during my apprenticeship program who really helped prepare me for this work and inspired me along the way. His name is Joe Moeller. He’s a delegate and really looks out for me. Even in the Carpenters Training Center all the staff and instructors constantly try and provide the tools for me to succeed. If I had to pick a favorite instructor, it would be Caridad Castro. I feel like I can go to her for any help or guidance. She’s always telling me to attend the Sisters in the Brotherhood meetings, and once I journey out and can quit working two jobs, I fully plan on doing that.

Many of our Sisters came in through alternative methods than the typical lottery recruitment system, such as BuildingWorks and Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW). Did you come in through one of these programs?

  • Actually, I didn’t come in through the recruitment line or through those programs. I started in Local 290 on Long Island because they had a Woman’s program. I completed a two-month summer apprenticeship which really helped prepare me for the work I would be getting into. At the end of the program, I got my union card, and then six months later I transferred into this council. I love being in this council. Starting out with just women really helped me because we were all so new to this field.

What’s the first thing you’re going to buy when you graduate and become a journeyperson?

  • A nice dinner, for sure. But really the thing I’m looking forward to most is getting to quit my second job and focus solely on the union. I’m excited to get more involved, both within Local 157, and within the Sisters in the Brotherhood organization. Once I’m more involved in both, I’m going to look into some roles for the future. Whether that’s gaining the leadership skills to become a foreperson or shop steward, I’m excited for my future path within the union.