Since he became a union millwright in 1994, Ellis Griffin has worked across all 11 of the council’s states in nearly every industry that the SSMRC serves, and while he mainly sticks to turbine work these days, he takes pride in serving as a mentor to the apprentices working alongside him.
Local 1263 Business Representative Robert Strickland said Griffin has spent the last 4 years machining all key components as well as all special tooling for both Unit 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle in Georgia, and serves as an example that other millwrights should strive toward.
“He has been a dedicated member for over 25 years with proven leadership skills, and is a great mentor to our younger generation coming up through the ranks,” Strickland said. “He is a living example of our UBC standards.”
Griffin said he worked as a non-union machinist and did welding and other maintenance work on the side before hearing about the millwright union from one of his friends, and after learning a little more about the profession, he decided to join.
“I was really glad that I got with the millwrights,” he said. “It’s a very fine program.”
Before he joined, Griffin said he had to work two or three jobs at times to provide for his family, but the union has provided steady work and benefits that he didn’t have before.
“Ever since I’ve come into the millwrights, I haven’t had to struggle any more,” he said.
Over his nearly 30 years in the union, Griffin has worked in multiple industries such paper mills, car plants, tobacco plants, chemical plants, conveyor systems, and boilers, and he has spent around 10 years working in turbines — including the work to machine all of the key components at Plant Vogtle’s Units 3 and 4.
Griffin said getting the opportunity to work in each of those different industries throughout his career exemplifies the jack-of-all-trades nature of millwrights.
“I don’t like to just specialize and say I’m just a turbine man or I’m a pump alignment fellow or whatever, we do a little of all of it,” he said. “That’s the main thing, is just get your hands on everything and learn as much as you can.”
Griffin was also invited by Savannah Training Center Millwright Coordinator Jessie Patterson to attend a career fair in Georgia last month to help share the benefits of the SSMRC and recruit the next generation of millwrights
“I explained my situation and how I joined, and the benefits of the apprenticeship program and the training it offers,” he said. “I really enjoyed it and I thanked her for letting me come and be a part of it.”
He also gladly acts as a mentor to those who are new to the union or are learning a new field, and said he gets just as much out of that relationship as they do.
“I love passing the knowledge on, and I tell them to never quit learning. If you want to learn, there’s always something new out there that you ain’t done or you ain’t seen,” he said. “That’s the reason I love the millwrights, it’s all around, it’s not just one specialized thing.”
Griffin’s work has taken him to all of the SSMRC’s states and outside of the council into states like Iowa, Michigan and Kentucky, and he plans to do a little traveling again once he and his wife finish with their blueberry harvest on the 25 acres they have at their Georgia home.
He said his wife of 49 years is already retired, and is itching to hit the road with him, so they will be going together wherever Griffin works next.
“As soon as we finish with these berries, I’m going to go start working some jobs and some outages, and she wants to travel with me,” he said. “She hasn’t gotten to see the country, so that’s what we’re going to do.”