Mindset and mentorship with R3 Community Services
Within our industry, we often talk about how the Carpenters Union changes lives through the opportunities that our skills training, living wages and benefits, and zero debt apprenticeships provide our members. For minority and underserved communities, access to our union is not always clear.
When members of these communities do join us, an apprenticeship might offer one of the first opportunities for success that they have had in a long series of social and economic disadvantages. The key to each person’s success often lies in the mentorship and resources that they have access to within their community.
Fellow brother, Rick Dimmer of Local 41, has overcome struggles of his own. Working as a Union Carpenter in his community, Rick recognized a need to open the door to union careers to more people. In 2016 he started his non-profit R3 Community Services (R3).
R3 works with clients and partners within Western Washington to reshape lives, restore families, and rebuild communities through housing, education, treatment, employment, training, and mentorship services. We had the opportunity to talk with one of R3’s first clients, brother Larue Jackson of Local Union 41, about his experience working with R3 and the Carpenters Union.
LARUE JACKSON, Local 41, Metal stud framing, drywall, layout, journeying out this April
How did you connect with R3 Community Services?
When I was doing mock interviews, I was told I should meet Rick Dimmer. I was working non-union concrete at the time. I knew unions existed but didn’t know how to get into one. Rick talked to me about the Carpenters Union, explained the type of work, and what the Carpenters Union is all about. I said, “sign me up; what do I do next?”
I was one of Rick’s first R3 clients. He coached me along, walked with me through the process of joining the apprenticeship. I already knew how to use a tape measure. Rick took time out to teach me hands-on things with layout, how to keep myself as an asset to the company and my foreman, tricks, and tips to stay working as an apprentice, the importance of doing everything with urgency because time is money.
Why did you choose to join the Carpenters Union?
Growing up, I had a man in my life that was like a father–I used to watch him build a lot of things. I enjoyed that. I like the things we build, these things are going down in the history books, and our kids get to see that. I get to enjoy something that I do, and I get to watch other people enjoy what we’ve built.
How has your career as a carpenter impacted your life?
The Carpenters Union has impacted my life tremendously. Now I can take care of my family and not have to struggle to do it. I can afford a nice place–a good environment. Working as a Union Carpenter opened up the door for me to afford to buy a house. I’ve come a long way since first working with R3 Community Services.
“I volunteer in the community working with groups like R3, LU 41, and Carpenters In Action. When we hit the shelters and visit parents with young kids, we want to give them some hope–you can be something–unions are there when colleges aren’t. Sometimes people just want to know somebody cares.
I go into the prisons to talk to people about the trades. I help mentor guys that are interested in becoming carpenters. I have lived through the statistics–I had to fight through those obstacles. I give hope to others that they, too, can overcome those obstacles with a change of mindset and approach.”
I want people to know the work we do as carpenters. For example, a group of us helped build a chicken coop for charity–all the eggs go to the food bank. The people behind the program had paid a man claiming to be a Union Carpenter to build it, and he stole their money. Carpenters In Action came as a whole, worked together with respect. We were happy to show what true Union Carpenters are about. We are professionals, and we enjoy what we do.
What is your favorite project so far?
The Burke Museum–that was the most fun. I did the siding, framing, and drywall. This project, in particular, was so fun because they brought tours of kids every day. You saw the group of kids with the teachers; the kids would wave and be so excited. We were building something to enjoy, and they thought that was so cool. The process of putting the museum together, to see the kids’ excitement as they watched what was going on, it was great.
Words of advice?
Most of the time, when you think of a carpenter, you imagine someone hammering wood, you don’t think of things like acoustical ceilings. There’s a lot to do. No matter what trade you get into, learn everything you can, and find ways to relieve the stress off of your foreman–you’ll become a real asset.
I talk to everybody on the job–I do my best to make people comfortable. We can’t say brotherhood and sisterhood and then act like “get away from me.” We have to show solidarity on the job site. Communicate with each other. Sometimes racial barriers become like a language barrier. We have to find a happy medium of respect to work together, produce, and go home safe. It’s our job to make sure we all go back home safe.