As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Dakota struggled in a low paying, non-union factory job that failed to create a safe space amidst the toxic homophobic prejudices of his coworkers.
“I heard about Missouri Apprentice Ready through a friend who went through the program and got placed. When he heard how not great my factory job was, he suggested I take the class and learn a trade,” says Dakota.
Dakota hadn’t previously considered a career in the trades because it’s not necessarily the first place a gay man thinks of as a welcoming work environment. But his worries over discrimination were set at ease. “I went down to the hall and talked to my business agent and the president. I asked if the hall was going to discriminate and found that there is a whole system written in the constitution and bylaws that make sure no apprentice or journeyman is discriminated against. Working for a union or a union company, you’ll have clear expectations and protection and know where you stand,” says Dakota. “The fact that a union is a direct democracy that I can participate in and have some control of the work environment is empowering.”
Dakota recommends the apprenticeship-ready program to anyone who wants to make a change in their life. “The program really walks you through all the different unions. You visit each and every hall and talk with members, you get a rundown of what the job is before you apply, so you really have a clear idea of what you’re getting into.”
After graduation, Dakota became an apprentice with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 178. “Providing people with basic necessities really appealed to me,” he says. “Every day, I know that I’m going to be doing something that benefits the community and that the union has my back. I’m a craftsperson instead of just a worker that constantly feels he can be replaced at any moment. All of the journeymen have been professional and respectful. It’s a safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community because of the union culture. We call ourselves brothers and sisters – we’re literally a family of labor.”
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