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Job-Seekers Camp Out for Days for Shot at Plumbing Jobs

More than 1,000 people waited in line despite scorching heat Thursday morning for the chance to become a plumber’s apprentice.
More than 1,000 people waited in line despite scorching heat Thursday morning for the chance to become a plumber’s apprentice.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

LONG ISLAND CITY — More than 1,000 people, including a veteran city school teacher, braved the scorching heat Thursday, some for as long as three days, for the chance to become a plumber’s apprentice.

The United Association Plumbers Local Union No. 1 said the 1,000 applications they distributed may turn into 200 to 250 jobs over the next two years. 

But some who suffered through the wilting temperatures did not even get applications for the gigs, which start at $14 an hour and rise to $51 an hour with benefits after they become qualified journeymen, usually in five years, according to Arthur Klock, director of training for the union.

The quest for the positions comes just months after hundreds of people lined up in Woodside for a shot at a job in the ironworkers union.

Job seekers — some who traveled from as far as Vermont — brought chairs, umbrellas, chips and coolers filled with water. Some hopefuls opened a nearby fire hydrant to help them stay cool while waiting in a line that snaked around the block from the union offices on 47th Avenue and 38th Street.

A bleary-eyed Tim Murray, 22, of Massapequa, L.I., was the first in line after coming to Long Island City on Monday around 6 p.m.

"I’m hoping for a better job and a career that pays well," said Murray, an electrician who says his job is only temporary. "I don’t want to worry about the next paycheck."

"It was really hard to wait that long," added Murray, who slept in a lawn chair and survived on chips and water.

Frank Carney, 19, of Bellmore, L.I., also staked out a spot near the front of the line.

"I didn’t take a shower for three days," said Carney, who runs a pizzeria but said "he wants to get [a] more stable job with a better pay and benefits."

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who came to talk to the crowd, said that considering the city’s relatively high unemployment rate — 9.7 percent in May, according to the state's Department of Labor — he wasn’t surprised to see so many job-seekers.

"Right now a lot of people are losing hope and are desperate," he said. "Some people think that they will never get a job, or at least not a good job. That’s why you see people waiting in this incredible heat for days."

Juanita Velazquez, 45, was one of the very few women who were waiting. "It may be a better opportunity for the future," said Velazquez, who has been teaching fifth-grade at a Bronx school for eight years. 

"I did some demolition work when I was a teenager so I have some experience in construction work," she said. "I can definitely handle this job."