By Jacob Bourne, Contributing Writer and Photographer
Since January, members of Carpet, Linoleum & Soft Tile Workers Local 12 have been giving it their best at a renovation project for Dropbox at 1800 Owens Street in Mission Bay. Crews of between seven and 26 floor coverers, employed by Hoem & Associates, are utilizing state-of-the-art materials on all 32 floors of the four connected buildings. The work entails the additional step of pouring concrete and leveling it to zero, even at tricky areas near windows. The advantage is that workers can avoid having to patch cracks and holes, and instead have a base surface that looks like flawless glass. Marmoleum flooring is then installed and welded with no seams so that the finished product is perfectly smooth.
The floor layers are about halfway through the job that’s expected to wrap up next year. For most of them it’s been an opportunity to learn how to work with new products. For all the workers, the job represents one of the most highly detailed endeavors of their careers, even rivaling expectations of hospital jobs, which generally demand the highest standards and latest floor products.
–Voices From the Union–
I became a floor covering installer 33 years ago. My buddies and I started out as truck driver/material handlers. Back then it was important to learn the job sites and materials by delivering before you were allowed into the trade. You earned your right to be an apprentice by starting out as a truck driver. I was a truck driver for about a year and a half — it was an effective way of doing it.
Membership in Local 12 comes with great security. The wages improve as time goes on and I have really good benefits for myself and my family. I attend meetings and was a union secretary for 11 years. A new contract just passed about a month ago and we all made it a point to talk to all our brothers. We even discuss things with other shops so everybody is involved whether you attend meetings or not.
It’s important for people to know what a blessing it is to be in the union because non-union companies don’t have our benefits, our retirement and care for our families provided. I know non-union people and they make half of what we make and don’t have benefits and their families suffer because of it.
Jose Jesus (Chuy) Perez
I was working as a janitor and a guy in the industry asked me if I wanted to join Local 12. This was 20 years ago and floor laying was completely new to me. Since becoming a member, I’ve had work all the time and been reliable for my company, giving it 100 percent commitment.
The medical benefits are important for my family. My daughter broke her elbow and her surgery was completely covered, my son broke his wrist and my wife had to have two tumors removed — everything has been covered, which has given me peace of mind.
I work around the clock because I love this work so much. For me a six-day work week isn’t so much about the money but it’s about the pride. In this trade we feel good about showing up for work. Even though my work schedule is demanding and I live very far, I still make the effort to attend union meetings. It’s worthwhile to go because I want to be involved in my union that takes care of me and my family. I love my work.
My brother-in-law has been in the trade for years and he introduced me to Local 12 in 1998. This is the first and only job I’ve had since coming to the U. S. from Mexico. I love this trade, it’s great to do this kind of work. Being a union member the benefits are great and everything is good. They take care of us, they fight for us and they’ve got our backs.
This past month they fought for our pay during contract negotiations. I had worked for a company a few years ago and they weren’t paying us on time and Local 12 came to our assistance and got it sorted out.
This job has given me the opportunity to learn something new. This is the first time I’ve worked with marmoleum, and our foreman, Chuy is great and always shows us what we need to know.
I’m a floor layer, installer and welder who’s been with Local 12 for six years. Before that I was a non-union floor layer for seven years. My dad has been a union layer for 30 years and he encouraged me to join Local 12. The decision has made a big difference in my work and life. I’ve gotten to learn about new materials and I see that the quality of the work is better. I’ve definitely learned so much more during the last six years as a Local 12 member than the seven years non-union.
Being a part of Local 12 feels like being in a family. We’re treated very well. Hoem & Associates is the third shop I’ve worked for, and the company schedule has allowed me more time to be more involved and attend union meetings.
It was 16 years ago that I joined Local 12. I had been working scrubbing floors previously and so this was a big change. It’s been great because the pay is better and I’m always learning something new. When I went through the apprenticeship program, I learned so many new skills.
I found out about the opportunity to join on the union’s website. I discovered it all my own. No one in my family belongs to a union so I’m like a pioneer. It’s great, I love it. I can earn a pension and have my family covered with medical benefits. I go to meetings and it’s a good experience to talk about what we need. I like the way things are going.
I’m a first-year apprentice — started in January on this job. It was a challenging for a first job but by now I feel I’ve learned what I need to know. I’ve been very busy working on weekends and taking the required coursework for the apprenticeship program.
Before joining Local 12 I was a warehouse worker for Hoem & Associates for two years. I was just out of high school and saw a career path with this instead of taking on student debt. This is a viable career path for me. I’ve done some side jobs for non-union shops and the quality is lower and the pay is also lower.
I had been non-union floor layer before joining Local 12 a year and a half ago. I joined as soon as I had the time to do it. What motivated me was the better benefits, retirement and good pay. Now that I’m a member my quality of life is improved and I’m more relaxed knowing that my future is secure.
This has been a good but demanding job. I’ve gotten to learn about new materials. My role is to get all the necessary areas prepped and lay the floors ahead of the welder.