Zachary Ris was not new to unions when he entered into the Ironworkers Local 46 apprenticeship program. He’d worked at UPS for the past seven years.

But he wanted to have a more hands-on work environment that would deliver projects he could be proud of. Four years later, Ris can say he worked on work sites ranging from the Disney headquarters to JFK Airport.

“I really wanted to do something with my hands instead of just driving a truck all day, to be honest,” he said.

Ris’s drive, dedication and attention to detail have made him an exemplar of Ironworkers Local 46. LaborPress is honoring his skill with its apprentice awards.

Before Ris took a job at UPS, he had originally tested to get into the Ironworkers. Years later when there was finally an opening for him, he thought it was a great opportunity and dropped everything to switchover.

Ironworkers Local 46 are known for their detailed handiwork and the range of their projects. Through the training program, Ris learned rigging, safety classes, practical math skills, how to read blueprints, the responsibilities of a foreman and how to set slabs of post-tensioned concrete — the method of reinforcing concrete with rebar.

His first high-rise project was an ambitious one: Hunter’s Point South in Long Island City.

“I got a chance to see the building go from nothing to 40-something stories,” Ris said.

From there he went to the Disney Headquarters in SoHo.

“That was cool because we started about 60 feet under the ground, building up walls to support the building,” Ris said.

He went on to work on the roadway at JFK including building the retaining walls, bridges and sewer systems and infrastructure that keeps the airport functioning.

The few open shop projects that he worked on taught him the difference that working for a union makes. Benefits for his family, his pension, retirement are all important, but Ris said that the union safety precautions are paramount in his field

“We get a nice coffee break, we start on time. If we work extra hours, we get paid a proper rate for working the extra hours. And there’s steps taken to make sure that we work safely all throughout the day,” he said.

Zachary Ris


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