can we hear about the fist fights?Sure,I'll discuss w ya..I can't sleep anyways lol
So,the Unions in the skilled trades/construction are a bit different then other Unions such as your teachers Union and the UAW etc. The difference is in the trade Unions,they teach you the trade with a 5yr apprenticeship(some trades such as the tin knockers may only be 3 or 4yrs) and during that 5yrs you're also learning on the job.
In my local,you are indebted to the plumbers Union for the 5yrs following the completion of your schooling;if you leave to go start your own business during that 5yr period you may be required by law (you sign an agreement)to repay the local for the education they provided.
However,after that 10yr period (5yr apprenticeship/5yrs immediately following) you are free to start your own mechanical contractor/plumbing business but they do encourage you to be a Union shop. The education they provide is top notch and the training facility is top notch w all state of the art equipment.
That being said,there is absolutely no room for lazy or unskilled workers in the trades here in the NYC/Tri-State area: if you fuck off all day and don't produce,you'll be laid-off within a day or two. If you are a shitty,sloppy worker,you'll be laid off quickly as well. There's really no place to hide between the skilled,professional plumbers in an attempt to skate by. We get paid top dollar;the mechanical contractor is not going to tolerate laziness when they're paying you $110/hr (that's our total hourly package including fringe benefits). The cream rises to the top,the same way it does in your field and other fields as well.
As far as strikes go,we've haven't had a strike in more than 30yrs,the contractors are making money hand over fist building high-rises and without a large,skilled labor force able to provide several hundred skilled plumbers at any given moment to complete the job,they aren't going to nail the required time frames without being penalized by the general contractors running the show. That can cost a mechanical contractor hundreds of thousands of dollars and could put them out of business rather quickly.
Hence,there is zero tolerance for lazy workers or guys that constantly show up late,call in sick etc. Also,unless you're a foreman we don't get any sick days,personal days or paid vacations: if you don't show up to work you don't get paid. You are an at-will employee and can be laid off at any given moment,the Union is not going to protect you.
All in all,I got in back in the early '90s when construction was booming and had a great career,made some lifelong friends,met a bunch of assholes too. Got into quite a few fist fights on the job over the years,made a great name for myself and had the opportunity to work on some very high profile,cool jobs. I've welded gas pipe (culinary gas mains,for kitchens) at the original Giants Stadium,the new Giants Stadium,Picatinny Arsenal (US Army base),NY Jets practice arena,Goldman Sachs bldg,NJ Transit tunnels under the Hudson River,Newark Airport,and most recently the American Dream Mall which will be the largest mall in the USA once completed in a few months.
I've attached a few pics,1st few are from the day I came home from the hospital after my second lumbar fusion (wanted to see if I lost my touch lol) high as fuck on pain meds and welded 2 Stanley stainless steel razor blades that are 0.024 in thick. Other pics are of me walking the roof joists 135' in the air putting up hangers for my gas main at the American Dream Mall in Rutherford,NJ