I’m ‘Living Proof’ of the Power of Unions
By Frank Murray – Special to the Reporter
Along with learning math, science, and other disciplines at the kitchen table, I learned the benefits of being a union member. My grandfathers were Teamsters Local 25, my father was a union laborer, and my uncle is a union gas worker. Being part of a union gave them job security, fair pay, and high-quality health care, and helped anchor our family in the middle class. As a member of Iron Workers Local 7, I too have a voice on the job to negotiate better wages, benefits and working conditions.
On average, union workers’ wages are 11.2 percent higher than those who are not in unions. And 96 percent of us union workers have employer-provided health care, compared to just 69 percent of the non-union workforce. With so many companies outsourcing, hiring gig workers, and failing to provide career stability, the fastest way to financial independence and the middle class in this country is to join together in unions.
I’m living proof of that.
I attended Shawsheen Valley Technical School in Billerica and after graduation, I was mentored by a family friend, Tom Ward, who was a lifelong member of Iron Workers Local 7 in Boston. Tom guided me through the apprenticeship application process and remains a mentor to me today.
Nine years ago, as an apprentice, I was assigned my first job, working on the construction of One Seaport, a one-million-square-foot residential and retail development that includes two 20-plus story towers with apartments, restaurants, nightclubs, and other amenities. We all drive by the cranes and the massive towers going up across Boston every day, but to be able to work on a project of that size and scope as I started my career was incredibly gratifying and educational.
The members of Local 7 took me under their wings as I began working on that job, amazed at the magnitude of the development and the skills and professionalism of my fellow union members. Safety, I learned, was always a top priority.
Right from the start, I was paired with professional and experienced men and women who taught me the trade and safety protocols, such as the importance of working in pairs, avoiding weak floors and openings, fall protection measures, and other job site precautions.
I’ve since worked on several major projects and am currently on the construction of a new 51-story tower over South Station. Just like those who came before me and helped me, now it’s my job to help the new apprentices stay safe and perform at the highest level while working on these massive buildings. Luckily, Local 7 provides plenty of training opportunities for us to stay up to date with the latest equipment and industry standards.
I have great pride in the work we do. The structures we build we put together from the rebar that goes deep into the earth right to the very tip of each building. There’s nothing quite like a topping-off ceremony on a building that you’ve spent months or years of your life working on.
Local 7 provides me the financial security I need as I start to build my life and my family. I recently purchased my first home, in Charlestown, and have my first child on the way.
Being able to buy a home in the city where I work is elusive for too many people my age, but it is possible with union wages and benefits. The opportunities I’ve received with Local 7 have opened so many doors and allowed me to join the middle class in Boston and live in the city that I love so much.
I’ve also made lifelong friendships and have great camaraderie with my brothers and sisters. We are dedicated to improving our communities. I’ve joined with several colleagues to form a coalition of young members called the Local 7 Next Committee, and we are committed to bettering our neighborhoods and participating in civic events to improve the lives of those around us. We’ve made school supply donations, raised money for veterans, and organized food drives for workers impacted by Covid-19.
The world has changed a lot since my father and grandfathers worked in the unions. But I’ve seen firsthand how, if we all work together, our unions can not only build a better Boston while on the clock, but we also can live here and make the city a better place every day.
Frank Murray is a member of Iron Workers Local 7.