By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter
Local unions are the heart and soul of the construction industry, standing as pillars of support and advocacy for workers in their respective communities. They are the driving force behind fair wages, safe working conditions, and dignified treatment of construction workers.
“We play a vital role in empowering workers, promoting justice, and shaping the construction industry,” suggests David Fleetwood, business manager of Laborers Local 500.
In case you don’t know, through collective bargaining, Local 500 secures better compensation, job security, and safety regulations for its members, helping to protect their rights and interests, among many other things.
“Each construction craft has a jurisdiction,” explains Fleetwood. “The Local 500 represents the physical laborer’s jurisdictions. If it’s walking, carrying, lugging, pushing, raking, hauling, maintaining the underground sewers … anything that’s grimy and physically challenging, we do it.”
The Laborers Local 500 encompasses six county areas: Lucas, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Defiance and Williams.
As business manager, Fleetwood strives to secure a decent standard of living for member workers and their families here in Ohio. “Fair wages allow workers to earn a living wage, afford housing, education, healthcare, and other essential needs,” he says. “We also offer training programs to our members, developing them into skilled and qualified workers in our industry.”
These programs provide education and hands-on training, so construction workers have the necessary skills and expertise to perform their jobs both safely and efficiently. “Our programs help members get and maintain high paying jobs often requiring specialized training.”
The Laborers Local 500 has a brand new training center on Nebraska Avenue and members are excited to be partnering with local organizations that prioritize education, skills development, and career advancement. “We want to be a part of the solution,” suggests Fleetwood.
“We are coming into our construction season,” he explains. “Our newly renovated training center on Nebraska Ave. is 51,700 square feet and ready to go. We are looking to collaborate with community partners that can generate enough training dollars to lease spaces in the building while training people in many different specialties.”
Fleetwood’s hope is to provide training to everyone in need. “We want those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized or underserved to know that our center is a safe space. We are here to help,” he asserts.
“We’ve been reaching out to many of the local schools and universities who may need specialized spaces for their culinary arts classes. Our new building has a remarkable commercial kitchen.”
The Laborers Local 500 also collaborates with employers who create unique job opportunities for residents. This can be especially beneficial for construction workers during periods of economic downturn or industry fluctuations, says Fleetwood. “Our members worked the entire pandemic. When many were laid off we were blessed to stay gainfully employed.”
Negotiating provisions such as seniority rights, job bidding, and layoff protections, are just a few of the things David Fleetwood is responsible for as business manager.
“What I do helps to support the growth of the middle class,” he shares.
“I tell everyone the local 500 was my avenue after incarceration. It was my instrument to know that I could work an honest career and master a skill set. The Union made sure I wasn’t reduced to the few jobs available to those of us with criminal records.”
So far Fleetwood has been in talks with partners Stephanie Boutte at Ternion Training and Education Center (better known as TTEC) on Hill and Reynolds, The Junction Group and the Lucas County Workforce Development Team.
“We’ve been speaking to Dr. Durant at TPS also to see how we can collaborate,” explains Fleetwood. “Every student is not going to go to college. We want to be a viable option for them.”
The new state-of-the-art training center has 13 meeting size offices in the front of the building, 5 classrooms, a fully epoxied 22,000 foot training bay and a room with 8 overhead exhausts for those who are learning welding or using firing torches.
“We’re expecting our laborers to use about one third of the building,” explains Fleetwood. “Our ideal partnerships are working with groups that help the less fortunate and train them in careers that will lead them out of poverty.”
To add context Fleetwood goes on to explain when he says culinary arts he wants people to be trained as chefs and not only as fast food workers, for instance.
“We also value a holistic approach for our members and will be providing advisors and counselors to get folks out of a poverty mindset,” says Fleetwood. “If you have the want-to’s, we will provide the how-to’s.”
Overall, the Laborers Local 500 is dedicated to promoting the rights for all. By empowering laborers with better wages, benefits, and working conditions, they help achieve economic stability locally, benefiting not only the workers themselves but also the broader Ohio communities they serve. Through their collective action, the union strives to create a more inclusive and equitable construction industry, where all workers, regardless of their background or identity, have access to fair opportunities for employment and advancement.
The union also strives to help create a more inclusive and equitable society by giving back, says Fleetwood. They regularly donate to local non-profits who are doing what they can to lift up the community.
“We can’t sit in this community and not be a part of it,” he says. “We gotta help. Unions have flourished during the pandemic, so we gotta help. We want to get people out of poverty and into the middle class. I want to be part of the solution and break the poverty cycle.”
For more information or to collaborate contact firstname.lastname@example.org