Mike Bourke joined Local 825 in April 2007. Up till then he worked as a mechanic in an auto dealership. Fifteen-minute lunches at his toolbox were common as he worked to keep up. Yet it often seemed like you just couldn't do enough to satisfy them. The last 10 years dragged out, day by day.
"I had a few friends who were members of Local 825 and they seemed pretty happy with what they were doing. Then one day, one of them called me and said I should apply because they needed mechanics." With two kids and a mortgage, Mike considered whether to leave the dealership where he'd spent 20 years. "Aside from the work, the benefits weren't that good and I just wasn't getting ahead."
Mike gave notice, left the dealership and went to work that following Monday. From day one, he knew he made the right choice.
"It's so much more rewarding. I have a boss who values my work and appreciates what I do. I give him a good day's work and then go home to my family. When I go to a union meeting, they make me feel right at home. Joining 825 was the best move of my life. I haven't had a bad day yet."
Kenneth L. Riley, Jr.,
Heavy equipment operator
A year after graduating high school in 1987, Ken Riley went to work as a laborer for a plant in Camden, where he remained for 15 years. As part of his job, he learned to operate a front-end loader.
“One day, my father-in-law visited me at work. After seeing me operate the loader, he asked if I’d ever thought about joining the union. I really never had, until then.” In 2003, Ken applied, took the test, was interviewed and was admitted as an apprentice heavy equipment operator.
“I was a little nervous about some of the equipment at first but the instructors really work with you every step of the way, until you know exactly what you’re doing.”
Two years after joining the union, the plant where he’d worked for 15 years closed.
Being an operating engineer “really has changed my life.”
“I like working out of the hall, getting to work at different companies ... you learn different things at each place and that helps you later on. Through the years I've met a great group of people and I like how everyone stands together.”