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War Vet Guy Luerssen Finds a Pathway to the Middle Class with Ironworkers Local 361

Editor’s Note: LaborPress is proud to present the 2022 Outstanding Apprentice of the Year Awards for Long Island and New York City on Thursday, June 16, hosted by Teamsters Local 282 in Lake Success, NY. Today, we continue our ongoing series leading up to this year’s gala event introducing each of those fascinating and inspiring award-winners to the wider labor movement.

New York, NY – Ironworkers Local 361 journeyman Guy Luerssen, 36, says becoming a trade unionist is “probably the best thing that’s ever happened” to him. “It’s given me a pathway to the middle class, helped support my family and live comfortably in New York City,” the military veteran and Long Beach, NY product says.

Guy Luerssen, Ironworkers Local 361.

If anyone deserves a comfortable lifestyle, it’s Luerssen. He served fourteen years in the U.S. Army. “My military service was from May 2005- August 2019. I served active duty with the 10th  mountain division 2-87 Infantry,” he says. “While active I served two tours in Afghanistan in 2006-07 and 2008-09. I left active duty and enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard serving one year with that unit to Bahrain in 2015-16. My rank upon leaving was Staff Sergeant (E-6). I received the Combat infantryman’s badge, Airborne, Air Assault, Good Conduct medal, Army commendation medal and other various awards.”

Now living in Ridgewood, NY, Luerssen says his extensive military service gave him an edge as an apprentice Ironworker “because we are drilled on attention to detail, punctuality and physical fitness.”

Although many military veterans come to the unionized Building Trades through Helmets to Hardhats, the organization whose mission it is to connect veterans specifically to such jobs, Luerssen says he learned about the organization after he’d already taken the Ironworkers exam and entered the program in a more casual way. “I took a chance,” he says. “My buddy’s like, ‘Hey, go take this test.’ “And I did.”

Ironworkers Local 361’s three-year program taught Luerssen a range of skills, including rigging, bolt technology, working with cranes – assembly, disassembly, signals and his one of his favorites, welding. “The welding aspect is the most valuable and interesting part of the course curriculum,” he says. He also singles out learning about cranes. “My favorite part of the apprenticeship training was learning how to work with cranes. I enjoy the fast pace of setting steel in a raising gang.”

Luerssen graduated from the apprentice program in September. He is currently working on the Throgs Neck Bridge, doing steel repairs. There’s a long list of other structures he’s worked on. “I’ve probably worked on over eighty projects since I’ve been in,” he says. “So I’ve worked on the Kosciuszko Bridge, 270 Park, the Chase Building, the U.S. Tennis Center, the Kew Gardens Interchange, those are the big ones,” he says. “So many small jobs. Railroad jobs, MTA jobs, different stations, done a couple of buildings, a couple schools in Queens, two MTA buildings up in Inwood…”

Luerssen sums up the importance of being in a union to him and his family this way: “One thing I love about the union is I’m able to spend more time with my family. I have hours and pay that allow me to pay for travel baseball, and coach for my son’s (Oliver, 9) baseball team. And I was allowed to take paternity leave for my youngest son Liam’s (10 months) birth up to ten weeks.”

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