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July 22, 2017
Military veteran & Laborer - a great combination
Updated On: Jul 01, 2017
U.S. Army veteran and Laborers 231 member Sean Pfeiffer.

Discipline, hard work and a “can do” attitude –  the perfect ingredients for a good construction worker – and for the U.S. military.

Many military veterans are found on construction sites, where military skills, but most appropriately, military attitude, translate into a successful career. North America’s Building Trades Unions have a program, “Helmets to Hardhats,” to specifically guide returning veterans to the trades.

Two Laborers Local 231 members have made that transition, with one of them still serving.  Sean Pfeiffer and Erica Wright are both making a decent living as union Laborers.

Erica joined the local in 2006.  She is still in the Army Reserve, part of the 6/100th from Fort Sheridan.  In 2003-2005 and in 2009-2010, she served in Iraq with the 724th Transportation Unit as a Heavy-Wheeled Operator.  She currently holds the rank of Sergeant First Class.

From her military training, Erica learned “efficiency, work quickly and be willing to work…  If you’re just on time, you’re late.”  Before the Laborers, she worked at Western Illinois University.  “I’m not an inside person,” she said, which made construction attractive.  She completed her apprenticeship with the Laborers, and said her military “leadership experience has worked in my favor.  It’s teamwork – both in the military and in the union.”  Her GPS training in the military became a real plus on the job site.

As a woman, she reports no problems on the job site.  “I’ve always been welcome, it’s always been a great experience.  Most people know I’ve been in the military so there are no problems.” 

The union “means I always have a group of people who have my back to insure I have a safe working environment.  The military is so similar.  In the military and the union people are always watching out for you and will fight for you and with you.” 

Sean joined Local 231 in 2008 and completed the apprenticeship.  As part of the Illinois National Guard from 1994-2013 his Delevan unit was sent to Iraq in 2007-2008, where he served as a Transportation Coordinator.  Sean was a Staff Sergeant when he left the service.

From the military, he learned “Discipline – both physical and mental, the military teaches you how to push yourself, and how to be dependable and trustworthy.”

Sean works as a foreman for United Contractors Midwest (UCM) and on a hot day, his military experience taught him also to watch out for the crew, to insure everyone is hydrated and there are no heat injuries. 

“If you are an outdoor person,” he said, “road construction is for you.  You can make a great living, have great benefits and end up with a great retirement.   I would recommend this if you are not afraid of hard work.  Most people who have been in the military are not afraid of hard work.”

Thanks to the Laborers, Sean feels more stability in his life.  “The union brought me into another family.  I had my military family and now I have my union brothers and sisters.”

Laborers 231 business manager Bob Schroeder, himself a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said that both “Sean and Erica are as good as they get, great examples of what a Laborer should be. Their military background makes both of them exemplary workers.  Military training builds character, which is exactly what we need in the member.   Local 231 makes the best effort we can to bring the military veteran in and insure they have the best training and the best opportunity.”

This story is not unique to Laborers Local 231.  Every local construction trade will point with pride to members who not only serve their country, but also serve their community through bringing discipline and strong work ethic to building the nation.

by Mike Matejka, Great Plains Laborers - LECET

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