August 18, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – Artie Rodriguez, a Foreman with Ironworkers Local 580, has been nominated for the Heroes of Labor Award by Peter Myers, Business Agent of Local 580. We sat down with Mr. Rodriguez to find out about his background, his work, and what led to the nomination.
“In 2000 I entered into the Apprenticeship program,” said Mr. Rodriguez, “which takes three years. It teaches you how to work with steel, use the equipment – welding, cutting torches, gas and acetylene, among other things. They certify every graduate with OSHA safety cards and all
the certificates you need in the iron working field. As an Apprentice you are hands-on. The school does a great job of prepping Apprentices. Upon graduating you become a Journeyman. As a Journeyman I did some structural steel work, a lot of staircases, and miscellaneous iron.
I’ve been fortunate enough to maintain employment since then, and it’s directly because of the Business Agents [at the union]. They do an excellent job of fighting non-union contractors, and also signing up new companies with union labor. I’m presently a Foreman with a company that has a contract with the MTA. I do a little bit of paperwork, I mobilize and utilize different 580 Ironworkers. Right now we are in the process of taking down old train stations and putting up new ones.”
His work keeps him busy, but not too busy to help those in need, as is evident by the incident that led to his nomination for the Heroes of Labor Award. Mr. Rodriguez lives in Ozone Park, Queens, and was on his way to his job one very early morning “On March 31 st , 2016, my driving partner, Michael, picked me up about 5:45 a.m. As we were driving, I spotted a fire in a house on the avenue. I told Michael, ‘Pull over.’ What upset me was that there were about eight people filming the fire on their phones. I got out and screamed at them, ‘Has anyone called the Fire Department??’ Nobody said anything. It’s 5:45 a.m. I’m thinking – there’s got to be someone sleeping in there. So I looked at the fire and saw it was pretty high. We were about three blocks from my house, so I said to my partner, ‘Make a U-turn. I have fire extinguishers at
my house.’ We headed back, I jumped in my yard, grabbed the fire extinguishers, jumped back in the truck and went straight to the fire and extinguished it. My brother is a fireman in the Bronx; I know a lot more about fires than the average person. I could tell it was an exterior fire,
but I knew it could have snuck into the interior. People started to come out of the side of the house. I asked them who else was inside and they said, the grandmother. So I started knocking on the windows, and then I think she woke up, because she came out. Just as that was
happening, the firemen came.”
Mr. Rodriguez’s heroism was rewarded by huge gratitude from those whose lives he had saved. He went by the next day to check on them, and, he says, “They were so grateful. But you know, I didn’t really think anything of this.” In fact, this is the third time he has put out a fire before the fire department arrived on the scene. The difference in this case was, he says, that, “My partner was filming what happened this time and posted it on the Local 580 website; and I guess that’s how I ended up here, with the nomination!”
He feels good about the nomination. “I actually feel proud of what I did. I felt good that I was able to actually stop it and maybe it would have gotten worse [without me]. This is great for me and my kids – Sean, 16, Nicholas, 9, Dean, 7, and Tyler, 5. They are proud of me. My wife,
Daniela, to whom I’ve been married since 2007, is used to me helping people. But she was surprised I was nominated,” he says with a smile.