After immigrating to the United States and working as a scaffold builder in refineries, Emerson Romero found a perfect career fit as a union millwright.
Gratitude is an overarching theme in Emerson Romero’s life. He says he is thankful to be an adopted son of the United States of America and to count Millwright Local 729 as his family.
Romero was born in Guatemala, grew up in Mexico, and moved to the United States with his wife and son in 2013. He found work as a scaffold builder in Louisiana refineries. “Being there opened my eyes to a new world,” he said. “Inside of that new world was the millwright trade, and that was really appealing to me. I worked very hard to be a part of it and, well, here I am.”
Romero is entering his third year of the millwright apprenticeship program.
Mike Hines, business agent for Local 729, said there are multiple reasons he selected Romero for the SSMRC Member Spotlight. “He has made all his apprenticeship classes, always asking questions, and attended steward training as a first-year apprentice because he wants to learn all he can,” Hines said. “As far as work ethic goes, all feedback has been excellent. One thing about Emerson is that no matter what he is doing, he seems to be in a good mood and smiling.”
Learn more about Romero through his answers to the questions below.
Q: When did you become a union millwright?
A: I became a member of the Local 729 family – I like to call them family – in December 2018. I felt very welcome since day one. I had my first job in February 2019 and haven’t stopped since then. There’s always a new job opportunity for me, and that’s a blessing.
Q: How did you learn about the millwright trade?
A: I’ve been working in plants since 2013, when I moved to the U.S., and, in my eyes, the millwright trade was the most interesting because I like machinery jobs. And once I became part of the team, I really enjoyed my job. Everything related to machinery is fascinating. I love precision. I also know that, in this trade, with dedication and hard work, I can provide very well for my family.
Q: What kind of work were you doing in the plants before you became a millwright?
A: Mostly I did a scaffold building. Plant work was a very good option because, as a newcomer to America, it’s a very well-paid job. As I was working on scaffolds, I watched those guys there working with machines and I wondered, what are they doing? What trade is that?
Q: How did you find out?
A: I remember the day exactly and the guy I asked because years afterward he became my foreman. I asked him, “How can I become part of the millwright trade?” He told me, “Well, first of all, you have to go to a union.” That stuck in my mind, and two years later, I had the opportunity and the blessing of coming to Local 729.
Q: What has the apprenticeship been like?
A: It has been great because I’m learning at the same time that I’m working. I can apply what I learn in classes to the field. That’s very nice because you have the basis for what you’re going to do in the field.
Q: What kinds of facilities have you been working in?
A: Mainly refineries. In 2020, I had to travel all year long. I’ve been working at car plants, at paper mills, turbines, refineries, you name it. But it’s not bad, at least for me, to travel. It’s very good to learn and to meet new people. In this trade, I have had opportunities to meet great people everywhere.
And it’s always good to learn new stuff. Because it’s not just turbines and gearboxes. There’s a lot that millwrights can do. It’s day after day of learning on your jobsites, and that’s great. You never get bored.
Q: In a normal year, are you able to work locally most of the time?
A: Most of the time, I’m in the state – in Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, other areas in Louisiana.
Q: What do you like about working for a union versus working non-union?
A: There are lots and lots of benefits. When you are not part of a union, you don’t have that trust to go ask someone for advice to apply to your job. Mostly, when you are not part of a union, they are not very inclined to give you advice.
Now I feel that sense of being part of something. And everybody has been great. If they can give you some kind of orientation, they will do it, gladly. I never felt like a stranger. I always felt like part of the team and that’s a blessing. I try to do the same thing if I can help anyone in any situations inside the job or outside a job.
And we have our health insurance. I have that peace of mind that if something happens, I’m covered. It’s part of that sense of trust that I mentioned before.
Q: Which companies do you usually work for?
A: I mainly work with UPS. But I also work with other companies that are also great, like Ethos, APM, and Siemens.
Q: What are your plans for the future of your career like what goals do you have?
A: Mainly to finish my education and become a journeyman, to keep learning, working, growing as a millwright, and provide my family with a better level of life.
Q: Could you tell us about your family:
A: I have a wife and a kid, and I’m a family man. I really enjoy travelling with them and doing activities with them. I’m living for them, everything I do I do for them. My wife is Delfina, and my kid is Jefferson – Jeff. He’s 9.
Q: What are your favorite places to travel with your family?
A: Mainly Florida because we love Florida. There are a lot of places to go in Florida. There’s Legoland and Universal Studios, Disney, the beach.
Q: And your job gives you the ability to travel?
A: Absolutely. It provides me with the means to give my family a better kind of life. I’m really grateful.