By Oren Peleg
On every floor of the new 42-story, 530-foot residential tower at 8th and Figueroa streets in downtown Los Angeles that Local 11 brothers and sisters are helping transform from architectural vision into concrete reality, there is a constant refrain: camaraderie. Every conversation without hesitation steers back to it.
“It’s a brotherhood,” said Ezequiel Martinez, Local 11 job site foreman. “One of the reasons this job is going so smoothly is because we help each other out.”
“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people,” said Local 11 third-year apprentice Nate Shibata. “Since I’m kind of new still, the biggest challenge is not knowing what I don’t know. So, I always try to ask questions. If something doesn’t make quite sense to me, I’ll ask the question at least, and someone can explain it to me well.”
Developed by Mitsui Fudosan America, with LendLease as the general contractor, construction on the 8th & Figueroa residential tower began in 2020 and is set to open later this year with over 430 new units, multiple sky decks, a clubhouse, and more.
Building Legacy on Every Level
For Local 11 general foreman Juan Fang the training and camaraderie are about legacy.
“It feels nice to see the city growing and be a part of it as a member of the union,” Fang said. “And one of the main things that we look for in the IBEW is training our replacements, because those are the members who’ll carry us into the future. They carry over our legacy.”
Fang, who started his career as a non-union electrician making $13 an hour, said joining Local 11 transformed his life.
“The training I’ve learned here, the people that I work with, the whole brotherhood, it’s just amazing,” Fang said.
For area superintendent Lee Gutierrez, legacy is a family affair.
“I’m a third-generation electrician,” Gutierrez said. “My grandfather, Leandro, was the first electrician. He got into IBEW in the 1970s. Then my father, Ron Gutierrez, got in in the early 1980s. I got in in 1994, and then I also have a brother who got in in 1999, and my cousin Chris Longoria (Business Agent for IBEW Local 11’s Intelligent Transportation Unit) got in as well.”
Does Longoria want the next generation – the fourth in the family – to join IBEW?
“Absolutely,” Longoria said, citing the better pay and benefits union membership provides. “I would put opportunity at the top of that list, too. There are just so many pathways in Local 11, beyond working with the tools. There are different ways that you can help your family and also help the union as a whole.”
Beyond the standard amenities of a pool deck, barbeques, and fire pits, the 8th and Figueroa tower has more unique features like a golf simulator and hot yoga room – technologies that require new skills. These new technologies, though, create new opportunities for every Local 11 member to learn and test new skills they can transfer on to the next job.
“Amenities always have something new,” Gutierrez said. “We do design-builds, so there might be changes on the fly, and that’s definitely a hurdle.”
As a project, the 8th & Figueroa residential tower is a fairly standard job for the crew. Still, as is the case on every job site, this project has yielded its fair share of new and unexpected challenges.
Facing these challenges and coming together to create solutions to overcome them is part of what makes the fraternity of union membership so special.
“Every person who wants to come in and become an IBEW member, you become one of us. We teach you,” said Fang. “That’s something we all embrace: teaching people, spending the time, and getting the talent to move forward and get the job done.”
Camaraderie – there’s that Local 11 refrain again.
Members Speak Out
“The jobs go easier if everyone understands what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and the reasons why. There’s a code to it. Someone at some point helped me out, so I feel that I should help the first years, second years, third years, or even fourth years if they haven’t done the work we’re doing right now. I’ll always take a little bit of extra time and walk them through it.”
“The advice I’d give first-year apprentices is to just put in the work. Sometimes, some things may be a little bit confusing, but don’t hesitate to ask other people questions because we’re more than welcoming to help you guys out.”
“Every person who wants to come in and become an IBEW 11 member, you become one of us. We teach you. That’s something we all embrace: teaching people, spending the time, and getting the talent to move forward and get the job done.”
“Since I’m still kind of new, the biggest challenge is not knowing what I don’t know. So, I always try to ask questions. If something doesn’t quite make sense to me, I’ll ask the question at least, and someone will explain it to me well.”
“There are just so many pathways in Local 11, beyond working with the tools. There are different ways that you can help your family and also help the union as a whole.”