NEWARK – Union involvement can bring a lot of opportunities.
Here’s how Mikie Sherrill put it.
“You can do so many things because union members represent the people,” the CD-11 congresswoman said Monday morning at a ceremony honoring graduates of a Building Trades apprenticeship program.
Sherrill joined local political and union officials to highlight the latest graduates in the Pathways to Apprenticeship New Jersey (P2ANJ) program. The graduates will now be entering a building trade.
The program was created in 2013 by a small group of volunteers to help train low-income individuals for jobs in the building trades. Many of the participants have had a history of – as the group’s website says – “justice involvement.”
“Careers in the building trades lead to solid middle-class incomes, ending the intergenerational poverty that holds low-income … families hostage,” the group says, adding that, “More than 85 percent of these graduates are still working in the building trades and many of them have become P2A Peer Mentors, teaching classes and conducting information sessions.”
The young people graduating all received certificates from Sherrill; now they will go to work.
There is, naturally, a political component to all this.
Unions, traditionally, have been a rich source of political strength for Democrats. Some of this is ideological; some of it is real life experience.
Sherrill told the group that her grandfather’s career – and overall life – greatly improved when he came out of the military after World War II and got a union job in an auto plant.
The congresswoman also spent time working on helping former inmates secure jobs when she was with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
She said she learned that if individuals got union-related jobs, they had a good chance of turning themselves around.
Speaking of politics, former Gov. James McGreevey, who runs a reentry program himself, has also spoken to the graduates. McGreevey is now running for mayor of Jersey City. He was listed on the announcement as a speaker at today’s event, but he did not interact with Sherrill.
In line with the spirit of the event, Michael E. Hellstrom, the vice president and Eastern Regional Manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said it is the building trades and other unions that continue to fight against “greed” and to stand up for a prosperous and comfortable middle class.
Sherrill stressed that beyond the building trades, individuals can use the apprenticeship program as a launching pad to any number of fields.
“You can go into politics,” she said.
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