Lifelong Staten Islander, Jesse Picca, is a third-year apprentice who is soaring to new heights in the union and in the military. As he was awaiting deployment to Europe, we spoke to Jesse about growing up in a union family and how being a military union carpenter is helping him to provide for himself and his family. Read about his story below!
How did you find out about the union and why did you decide to join the union?
My father was a big union guy. He was in Local 45 and encouraged my brother and myself to join. My brother came in years before me and is working on finishing his shop steward courses. I kind of grew up with the union all around me. My dad, unfortunately, got injured and had to retire. When he retired, I was coming out of high school and looking into careers in the military. He spoke with me about the benefits a union career could afford me and when I found out the union would also allow me to join the military, I jumped at it!
What is your greatest lesson so far as an apprentice in the union?
I’ve really learned a lot so far when it comes to carpentry. Everything from framing sheetrock to forms, and a lot of installation. I like to keep my eyes open on the job. I think it’s good to watch your more experienced union brothers and sisters work, to see how they figure stuff out. I’ve found that’s the best way to learn. For example, I worked at SeaView Hospital in Staten Island, and I would watch the woodworkers to improve my own skills.
You’re now in the third year of your apprenticeship in the union and heading overseas. Could you talk more about that?
I had been a reservist in the Army, but in 2020 I was activated. Not long after, I felt my role in the army came to a stalemate and I needed something fresh, so I joined the Air Force Reserve. I work in aircraft maintenance putting together parts of aircraft machinery. There’s a lot of missions in other countries right now to strengthen our NATO allies and Spain is one of them. I’ll be shipping out as an Environmental Electrical member for the aircrafts.
How has the union helped you while you are in the Reserve?
I’ll be on military hold while I’m deployed. The union is really very military friendly. They do a ton for veterans, and they understand that if you’re in the military, you have obligations you must follow. They understand all of this and help a lot. There have been a few times where I’d call the Training Center to let them know I’m back for months, but then going away again for military stuff. They would work with me to schedule back-to-back classes so I could stay current with my training. To any veteran considering a union career, do it. The union is incredibly open to military members and veterans.
Do you consider yourself a union carpenter or a Reservist?
I’m both. I am a military union carpenter. I love what I do. I’ve liked building stuff since I was a kid. If there’s anyone in the union who wants to give back to this country, the Reserve and the National Guard are the way to go. I have the opportunity to work in the union and can provide for myself and my family, while serving in the military. That is something I am very proud of.
Are there any skills you will be bringing back to the union with you?
Yes, many. A big skill is understanding blueprints and diagrams. I’ll be doing a lot of that over the next six months to three years, so when I’m back in the union I’ll be able to understand those much better when working on certain job sites.