Asking Retirees about Change
Sig Bredlie, LU 1243
83 years old – 65 year member
Can you tell me about your time in the union?
I started in May of 1954 when I was 17. I was in the earlier batches of apprentices to start at Local 1243, which was founded in 1944. I could have gone to college, but I enjoyed woodworking, and the union always had work available. I eventually made it to superintendent with the Ghemm Company.
I worked all over Alaska and got to see a lot of things. I was one of the first people to go up to the Slopes when BP started drilling. I got to work on Kodiak Island after the earthquake and tsunami that hit in 1964. We rebuilt housing there. I built in Fort Yukon, Bethel, and in Anchorage.
I also served on the e-board and as a trustee.
How has the union affected your life?
Well, I met my first wife through the union, so there is that!
I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it through the years. There were bad days, ones where you wanted to say “to heck with it,” but it never stayed that way. Life hasn’t all been roses, but looking back, I can honestly say there’s been more good than bad times.
I went through a lot of firsts in my time–like the pension and health and welfare coming into effect. They argued against putting .25 cents an hour into the fund. They thought it was crazy. But it’s certainly paid off now.
We’re going through a lot of turmoil right now due to this coronavirus pandemic. As a carpenter who has seen economic changes throughout your life, do you have a perspective to share with carpenters today?
Stay safe and practice good safety measures. Know the people you’re going into this with and hold them accountable. I went out for coffee with some of my friends in my neighborhood–we only felt safe doing that because we knew each other well enough. We knew if one of us was sick, he wouldn’t put the rest of us in danger and risk our lives.
When I was a trustee, we had a problem with running in the red every month. We looked at the books and realized unless we changed something, we weren’t going to be able to keep the union hall open. We decided to stop making donations for a while–we decided to take care of our own cause. You can’t help others unless you help yourself, after all.