Apprentice Spotlight: Andrea Riley

Published by: NJ Laborers on 01/09/2012

Andrea Riley joined the Laborers as an apprentice in 2007. The Laborers Local 472 member sat down to discuss her experience in the New Jersey Construction Craft Laborers Program, he attitude towards construction, and her future goals.

Why did you join the Union?

I wanted to work, make a good living. I wanted to be in a Union because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.

What you like about construction.

Working outside; I am definitely not an office person! I enjoy physical work. Construction requires you to work hard, but the rewards are great, too.

Favorite type of work.

Believe it or not, I like getting on the jackhammer. Given the fact that I am a woman and also my [small] size, I think it surprises some folks to see me breaking concrete on a 70-pound jackhammer. Given my interest in safety, I also like traffic control and setting up highway work zones.

Thoughts on the Apprentice Program

On-the-job-training is a great way to learn, but I also like being in the classroom learning skills and how to perform work safer. The apprenticeship program also taught me how to get involved in the union right off the bat.

Biggest surprise about construction and the Union

I come from a long line of construction workers so I wasn’t that surprised by anything from that perspective. I guess I am surprised by how people feel about unions. Many people have negative feelings and don’t see the positive impact unions have.

Can anyone be a construction craft laborer?

It takes a lot of self-discipline and attention to detail to make it through the day. Sometimes you are given a task and the difference between doing it right and screwing it up can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars and set a construction schedule back weeks. A lot of people get into construction for the money, but it requires a great deal of skill to succeed. The money is there but you have to earn it.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Still a Union Laborer, I hope. There is so much to learn and do that 10 years from now there will still be things I can learn. Of course I’d like to move up into a leadership role, but as long as it is as a member of LIUNA.

Advice to people who want to become a Union Laborer?

Be prepared to work hard and remember that working safe is most important.

Importance of being in a Union

It is important we all get involved, attend meetings, take classes offered at the training center so you can expand your skills set, get involved in political action and organizing. We all have to understand that we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters of this great union.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 11:15