Andrew Davis is the #2 boilermaker in the country. It’s no exaggeration: he came in second place at a national competition that’s a little like an obstacle course, but with a welding torch.
The Local 29 member just recently graduated from his apprenticeship and is in his first year as a journeyworker. It’s been a long and winding road that brought him here, and he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Davis got a bachelor’s degree in Business, but he quickly realized that life behind a desk wasn’t for him. He went back to school for welding, and he found himself working for a non-union shop. He had no benefits, no training and he faced questionable safety standards. That job was a turning point for him.
“There was a union boilermaker helping out on the job one day, and he told me about the benefits of the union – the pay, the great health insurance, the pension and annuity. There’s also a commitment to helping you succeed by offering more training. I could see a bright future.”
Andrew realized he would have to go back to the beginning. After four years of college and a year of welding classes at community college, he would need to complete a four-year apprenticeship. But he knew the benefits would far outweigh the hard work.
He was quickly proven right. Since the union building trades pay apprentices as they train, Andrew was able to afford to buy a house last year, while still working as an apprentice. Now, as a journeyworker, he makes twice the hourly rate he earned at the non-union shop.
Andrew is currently working at the Merrimack Station power plant. He said one of the best days was when the 40-ton boiler arrived in pieces on trucks. The team on the site had to assemble, weld and attach the boiler to riggings and then stand it up using giant cranes. It was a good feeling knowing that his work would help to power homes and businesses.
“Working as a team is one of the best parts of the job,” Davis said. Camaraderie is something he didn’t see much of at his non-union shop.
“At Local 29, there’s the feeling that you are part of a community where everyone has your back, it’s a brotherhood and sisterhood. You aren’t on your own. At a non-union shop, it feels like workers are climbing over each other to get ahead.”
Davis says that since peers all over the country adhere to the same standards for skills, training and safety, there is a common language and an instant bond. He said it’s cool to know that he has friends all over the country he hasn’t even met yet, all because of his union.
“I’m proud to be part of something bigger than myself. I’m happy with what I’m doing on the job site now, and how I’ll contribute in the future. I’m putting what I learned in my apprenticeship to good use, and I’m advancing my skills every year.”
Another thing Davis appreciates is that the union takes a lot of worries off his plate. He isn’t anxious about affording health insurance. And he knows the union is fighting for him when it comes to negotiating raises and protecting retirement benefits.
“With the union, everyone makes the same pay with the same skills, and everyone’s pay increases on a collectively bargained scheduled. It’s a great feeling to know were all in this together. I have peace of mind knowing my life is going in the right direction.”