Carpenter Spotlight: Robert Larm
Robert Larm, now retired, was visiting his daughter and son-in-law in Los Angeles over the holidays. Robert is a lifelong union carpenter with the UBC Local 1925 out of Colombia Missouri. It was no surprise to his son-in-law that one afternoon while driving down interstate 10 Robert attempted, leaning out the car window, to snap a photo of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters’ building in downtown Los Angeles.
Robert’s son-in-law, Marx Gutierrez, knew he could do his father-in-law one better. Marx, a lifelong member of the local labor movement, pulled out his phone and got in touch with SWRCC staff who enthusiastically invited Robert to visit the SWRCC offices in person. The visit was special, not only for Robert but for SWRCC staff. Robert visited with SWRCC President Dan Langford, Chief of Staff Alexis Olbrei and sat down for a short interview so we could learn more about Robert’s career as a carpenter. Robert exuded Carpenter pride while telling stories of how the Union helped provide him with strong wages, good benefits, and a pension with which he could support his family.
Robert spoke of the many projects he worked on throughout his career. He framed hundreds of homes, banks, and hospitals. For seven years he was a foreman on a $13 million condominium project and he particularly enjoyed setting cabinets for public schools and the University of Missouri. Marx also reminded Robert to not forget to mention the 5,000 sf home he built by hand for his family. Interestingly, when it was time to downsize they moved into a smaller home that was also built by a union carpenter.
Robert and his wife, a public-school teacher, are also active in their local labor movement. Recently the couple helped collect 320,000 signatures to place a question on the November 2018 ballot asking Missouri voters if they approve of newly enacted ‘right to work’ legislation. Anti-labor ‘right to work’ legislation, a misnomer because the lack of such legislation does not deprive anyone of the right to work, allows employees to benefit from collective bargaining without paying for it. The effects of right to work legislation are lower wages, lower rates of employer-sponsored health care coverage and lower rates of employer-sponsored pensions. Robert and his wife’s efforts effectively suspended the law in Missouri until voters have a chance to voice their opinion later this year.
“Don’t miss the opportunity,” Robert replied when we asked what advice he would give to anyone thinking about joining the Carpenters Union. Thanks to union members like Robert, who still pays his dues to this day, younger carpenters can continue to benefit from the strong wages, benefits, and pension that comes with being a union carpenter.
This year Robert will receive his 45th pin. Congratulations Mr. Larm and thanks for the visit.