By Alan Neuhauser
Special to DNAinfo
More than 550 people have camped out on a Queens sidewalk for the chance to apply for 50 apprentice positions with a metallic ironworkers union. Only 500 applications will be distributed Monday from the chapter’s office in Woodside, union officials said, prompting job-seekers – with tents, blankets, and chairs – to form a line more closely resembling an iPhone launch than a job opening.
"There's an absolute terrible economy now, and as most people know, union jobs are very attractive," said Bill Hohlfield, labor-management cooperative trust coordinator for the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Union, Local 46, which is offering the apprentice positions. "People need healthcare, people need retirement and pensions, and you have the ability to build all those things for yourself if you're a union member."
Applicants began lining-up on Tuesday, Hohlfield said, eventually filling the sidewalk of 61st Street, wrapping around 32nd Avenue, and backing onto 62nd Street. Those waiting have been given pizza and sandwiches, courtesy of the union, as well as access to bathrooms.
"We're trying to treat people as humanely as possible," Hohlfield said. "It's a difficult situation, which we're trying our best to ameliorate."
Obtaining the paper application is just the first step in a months-long hiring process for a position that pays $18 an hour. This isn't the first time, however, that union officials have seen applicants lining the street to apply for positions.
"People get so afraid they won't get an application, they come several days in advance," Hohfield said. "If I had a magic wand, and I could make the entire construction industry unionized, I would, and I would then have room for all 500."