Los Gallos Politicos
Los Gallos Politicos is a spin off of the political action committee (PAC). Lead by Representative Ted Jimenez, Los Gallos Politicos was created by Chairman Jesus Maroquin and Co-Chairman Joel Perez, after realizing there was a major language barrier in the Council’s messaging to its members. Marroquin and Perez were united by their desire to bring their union brothers and sisters closer and educate all members who want to know more about how the union works for them and how they can become more involved in their union.
“We want to change the mentality of the guys who say ‘oh the union just takes money, it doesn’t help. We know that’s not true, but they don’t know because they never go out to get informed or the communication is lost in translation,” said Marroquin. “I’m American citizen today but English is my second language. Sometimes it may be broken but this committee is about education. It’s about teaching these guys what it means to be a union carpenter. I knew that was the job for me.”
“I gladly support & stand shoulder to shoulder with these brothers. To better understand the oath taken by every member who gets sworn in, the first thing they did was translate our Union Obligation from English to Spanish. It was clear from day one. The purpose of this committee was and is to amplify our brotherhood’s solidarity & increase our market share in all communities, regardless of what language we speak.”
– SWRCC President & COO Pete Rodriguez.
Los Gallos Politicos: A story about solidarity
It was a brisk Saturday morning as carpenters stood about awaiting their instructions for the day. Among them was Joel Perez, peering intently through his transparent safety glasses, bags strapped, boots laced, and the brim of his hard hat pulled low over his bandana. He looked as he does on most mornings, ready to go to work, as a General Carpenter for City of LA Parks & Rec. But this particular Saturday morning, Perez wasn’t clocking overtime on a big city project.
He and his fellow carpenters were at the Whittier Training Center, talking teachers through a roofing 101 class, for the Council’s CUPP initiative. For a union carpenter like Perez, a simple class like this was hardly a challenge. Still, among all the volunteers, Perez was the only one wearing a hard hat, a testament to how seriously he took his volunteer opportunity and his belief there’s no job too big or too small for a union carpenter in service of their community.
“When I first started, I didn’t know what the union was,” said Perez. He applied to the union after seeing a local hire call for a prevailing wage project in his community. “I saw the first check and just fell in love,” Perez continued. “In the beginning, I never really participated in anything. I didn’t know there were meetings. I didn’t know about the apprenticeship program. I wasn’t aware of any of it. To me, the union was just the guys taking money out of my check.”
That all changed for Perez three years ago when one of his union reps pulled him aside to mentor him on the difference between being a construction worker and a Union Brother Carpenter. Perez spent over 10 years as skilled and trained craftsman on his job sites, but it took someone teaching him about the brotherhood for him to become dedicated to his union.
“I realized there was a language barrier for guys who wanted to get involved. I started helping with member retention and just talking to guys over the phone,” Perez said. For many members, those phone conversations were their first time communicating with their union in a way they were comfortable with. “It was like instant friendships. Even though I was calling them because they hadn’t paid their dues, they were still excited because the language barrier was gone. Some of them weren’t even aware, they hadn’t paid their dues because they just didn’t understand.”
It’s an experience that’s not uncommon among young apprentices and those new to the union. Many are attracted to the construction industry by the physically challenging and always-changing work days, practical skills, and potential to earn a living wage. But, without further education, union membership is just a means to finding a job. That was true for Jesus Marroquin, a general carpenter for Dumarc construction, and eager participant in local 213’s PAC committee.
Marroquin joined the Southwest Carpenters in 2001, initially just looking for a decent wage and a change of pace. What he found was a new passion, and a family of brothers and sisters to help him pursue it. “I wanted to find something with more benefits, something that would make me feel proud,” he said. “I feel good, because now I can do my own projects at my house and when I look back on something, I built with my own hands, I feel proud. It’s the same thing with my job. I love it!”
But even Marroquin didn’t start getting more involved until a conversation with his mentor Pete Loera. “[Pete] told me everyone comes to the Union Hall when they need something, but if people were more involved, they would need less,” said Marroquin. He took up the longstanding union tradition of meeting workers where they are.
Not only did Marroquin start attending meetings and events he encouraged others to come out and learn more with him. “In that moment I thought to myself we need everyone to get involved. We need everyone to participate. Everyone should know how to walk like a union carpenter,” said Marroquin. “I realized a lot of guys don’t know how hard the union works for them, they think the union is just there to take their money.”
If you’re interested in getting more involved with your union and learning about how your union works for you come out to the next Los Gallos Politicos meeting January 23, 4:30 at the Whittier Training Center.