New York, NY – Demetrius Buttelman, a SMART Local 28 Journeyman and shop steward, is a third-generation worker who has spent 33 years in the trade. He came into the field as an apprentice right out of high school, when he was 18. “The only career I’ve ever had is being a Local 28 SMART worker,” he says.
Today, Buttelman is spending his days working at the Belmont Arena.
“I’ve been there for almost a year. It’s been a fun job,” he says. “We’re working on a 96-inch round pipe that goes around the inside of the building. I love being out in the field, walking the ladder, walking the beams,” he adds. “My grandfather and father worked in the shop, but I like to be out.”
As a shop steward, his job is to “make sure all men are taken care of by the employer on the job. We have multiple trades on the job. As a SMART worker, we do duct work, louvers, decking, siding, garbage chutes, we weld, do all kitchen equipment – exhaust, hoods, sinks, refrigerators, for example, walk-in fridges, fabricate and install them, and sign hanging, copper roofs and architectural siding and roofing. Our trade is very advanced.”
When asked what it was like working during the pandemic, Buttelman replied, “We shut down for four weeks. A job we were on had a lot of people with COVID. When we came back we became essential workers because of the jobs we were on.”
Buttelman put his job skills to heroic use after 9/11.
“I was working uptown,” he says. “My whole block I grew up on in Long Island was firemen, police officers, and construction workers. So they called me when it happened. I was told nobody could go down. But then they said, ‘We need anyone who can weld or torch.’ I was down there for three days straight. We went down with the heavy construction guys, down in a hole, taking bodies out,” he added with emotion.
Buttelman is grateful for his job and his union. “I love our union. I love what it’s done. I’m third generation and we even have the fourth – my nephew, going in.”
Above all, Buttelman loves his work.
“I love what I do,” he says. “The things [and especially buildings] I worked on – I did the original Tower 7 – to watch that fall hurt me unbelievably. Then to go back – I did the Freedom Tower, Tower 1, Tower 2, Tower 3. MSG, Citi Field [among many others]. That’s what I like to do – to be on a big project, to get to know men and take care of them and take pride in how we’re doing the work. The opportunities through the union, the people you meet, the people you are around. We take care of our own.”
Buttelman is a product of Holbrook, Long Island, in Suffolk County, but now lives in Kew Gardens, Queens. He has four children.