Mark Torres, a nearly 30-year member of Teamsters Union Local 810 and its director of Legal Affairs for the Pension and Welfare Funds, will have a full circle moment at New York University on Oct. 30.
Torres, who also serves as a general counselor for the union, is an alumnus of NYU (2003) and will have an author reading at the school’s bookstore located at 726 Broadway at 6 p.m.
The Woodside native never imagined that he would be a student at the prestigious school, but he credits his work as a Local 810 union refrigeration engineer for affording him the opportunity to attend NYU, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in History.
“I was a helper and worked my way up as an engineer,” said Torres, now a Floral Park resident in L.I. “One of the benefits of working at NYU is that you get some tuition relief. So I went to school and around that time I also became a shop steward for Local 810 for about 10 years.”
Torres was proud of his work as a shop steward and decided to become a law student at Fordham University (2008) while he worked full-time at NYU to take care of his wife and three kids, and he earned his Juris Doctorate degree within four years.
“In that role, I enjoyed representing the workers, it felt right and led me to going to law school,” said Torres. “I worked full-time in the day and went to school at night.”
After putting in several months as a law intern before he graduated Fordham University, Torres garnered an associate role at the Proskauer Rose law firm which he worked from September 2008 to December 2008 only to get laid off during the Great Recession (Dec. 2007 to June 2009).
Torres was unemployed from January 2009 to March 2009, and almost felt that years of hard work simply went out the window, but he was able to use recommendation letters from his brief stint at the law firm to find his way back to Local 810 where a general counsel position had opened up.
“I remember vividly being across the street from Lehman Brothers and people were walking out with boxes,” said Torres. “It was the first time that I was laid off and felt vulnerable. That was the first time that I wasn’t in a union position and it reminded me of how important being a union is.”
Torres has been representing the union and protecting its welfare and pension funds ever since, but during his spare time he took up fiction writing.
“It’s a great relationship that I have to this day,” said Torres.
In between dropping his kids off for weekend activities, Torres took up fiction writing and self-published A Stirring in the North Fork (2015), which took four months to write.
“Writing fiction is fun because you are free of the restrictions of legal writing and you could be a storyteller,” said the author. “Within one year of its release it was picked up in all seven continents by various readers thanks to social media and marketing.”
His debut crime novel focused on an out-of-work attorney who stumbles upon an unsolved murder. The L.I. protagonist of North Fork has ties to unions.
His follow-up story was a bilingual children’s book that was published by Hard Ball Press titled Good Guy Jake (2017), a labor union book that follows the life a sanitation worker who is a teamster that fixes broken toys and donates it to a children’s shelter.
“An angry motorist turns him in for moving the trash and he gets fired, and goes through arbitration and he fights to get his job back,” said Torres. “I ask the kids at the end if Jake would have gotten his job back if he didn’t belong to a union and they all say ‘no’ so the message is resonating with the children.”
Torres’ third novel, Adeline (2019) was released this summer. It is a tale of a young woman who dies in a mental asylum after being wrongfully committed. Indie Owl Press picked up the story.
“This is better, smarter and more of a bite,” said Torres. “There are dark forces that want to keep the murder a secret.”
Torres’ daughter created the cover artwork for the story, which features a cardinal.
In the future, Torres wants to branch off into different genres and he is currently pitching his stories for the small and silver screens.
“I love cold case stories,” said Torres, “but I would definitely like to explore writing about the supernatural and other genres.”