Electrician Apprentice, Local IBEW 102
About This Section
Click on the questions below to learn more about Jason’s experiences in the white-and-blue collar workforces in a question-and-answer format.
Was your decision to go from white collar to blue collar made overnight? How did you come up with the idea?
I thought about this thing quite a bit before I made the move. For a long time, I was doing photography and I kind of just stumbled into that. I never really knew what I wanted to do. I just kind of went from job to job trying different things out. I was also involved in the hiring at my company and I was watching people come in who owned their own business for photography for 30 years and they’re taking jobs for $10/hour. It worried me a little bit and I knew that there had to be some type of change there [in careers].
Was the changing photography job market the only catalyst that sparked your idea to change careers? Anything else that you were unhappy about?
The work never really mattered. I never really loved the whole office politics and all of the things that go along with offices: dressing a certain way and making sure everybody kisses the boss’ butt. That never seemed to be my type of personality and I know I had to tone things down a bit when I was working with these types of people. I didn’t seem l made a lot of friends who I worked with. I was always friendly with people I worked with, but they never seemed to be my type of people.
Is there a stereotype or stigma associated with the career you chose?
The stereotypes about what unions are and what they aren’t are all over the board. I think people have this notion that people [in the unions] can’t hack it in the real world. When I came over to the union, I was totally taken by surprise. I was really impressed with how smart these people are. You don’t realize all of the work and knowledge that comes together to get a job done.
When you think of a construction worker, you think of “oh that dirty construction worker over there.” Yeah, maybe at the end of the day, but when I go in in the morning with my company, you have to have your shirt tucked in. I think that stereotype is stuck with them for a long time.
A lot of people do look down on it. You’re switching, you’re downgrading into a different type of job. “Well they’re dirty, and you get dirty and you work with your hands,’ and that’s beneath a lot of people. I know a lot of people that put on a suit and shave, and they have to be so presentable. They put a lot of time and money into their appearance and what kind of car they job, and they’re making scraps to what people are making in the trade.
When I used to dress a certain way and go out, and I’d wear something that says ‘union’ on it, you’d go to a restaurant and they’d want to seat you in the back corner. I do notice there is quite a bit of a difference. People do look down on you but they don’t even realize you’re making double than what they’re making.
How does the tangibility of work differ from white collar to blue collar?
I love, at the end of the day, feeling like I accomplished something. When I was doing photography, I felt like I was going through the motions. A lot of it seemed meaningless. It didn’t interest me and I didn’t feel like I was contributing anything to the world.
With this, I feel that at the end of the day I can step back and look at something that I built or helped build and feel a little pride in that. You feel like something actually came of your day. You weren’t just spinning wheels and going nowhere.
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