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Newbie in NY
(@newbie-in-ny)
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February 28, 2016 11:25 am  

Hello, this is my first post here, though I came across this site a while ago and have been browsing from time to time. It seems like a good source of information and experience, so I was wondering if I could get some input from anyone who either works, or has worked, or can shed any light on the world of surveying in a union. I've been working as an IP and a CAD tech for a couple of years for an engineering firm. We do a little of everything - boundary, topo, stakeout, etc. Recently we were on a prevailing wage job in NYC, and a union rep for the operating engineers happened to be passing by (or was purposely out looking for us) and stopped to talk to us. He was basically trying to sell us on either joining the union or trying to unionize our company. The latter isn't happening, I wouldn't even try. But it got me thinking. The prevailing wage rates around here range from much higher to almost triple what I make on a regular basis, depending on the nature of the work and the region. so I was wondering if anyone here could give me some input based on their own experience. Is it hard to even get in if you're already in the surveying field? Does it require an apprenticeship if you're coming in with experience already, or if you're an instrument person, do you enter at IP rates right off the bat? And how is the workload? Are you constantly busy working full time, or are things kind of scarce, or somewhere in between? I do like what I do right now, and I don't know how seriously I'm even thinking about it, but it's something that's been rolling around in my head so I was wondering what others have to say.


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A Harris
(@a-harris)
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February 28, 2016 11:36 am  

Howdy, you have found a place full of answers.
I don't know much about union surveying or unions.
Have worked in several prevailing wage situations in the past, including State and Union situations and every one was construction related and had nothing to do with land surveying.
I also don't know of any surveyors that become licensed thru unions.
A Survey License comes thru land surveying, so "what is your goal" will be the end game.
After this weekend, maybe the NYC surveyors will bring you details about your area.
:gammon:

RPLS NE Texas
d[-_-]b


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Jim Frame
(@jim-frame)
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February 28, 2016 12:07 pm  

My union experience is pretty old -- it's been about 35 years -- and limited to Northern California, but the situation then was that when work was scarce it was essentially impossible for anyone to join the union (OE Local 3), but when the hall was empty any warm body with a fig leaf of experience and a willingness to pay dues could sign up immediately. The wage and benefit packages are formidable, but when an employer is paying that kind of money they're generally quick to lay off unionized staff when things slow down. At every union outfit I was aware of, there was a small core of valued field staff that worked pretty much year-round, and when work picked up they'd add back previously laid-off guys as needed. When work exploded they'd draw from the hall, but by that time the guys left in the hall usually came loaded with "issues" (e.g. substance abuse, toxic personality, no-show). The work tended to be mostly development-related, with lots of construction staking.

I know guys who had pretty good careers as union surveyors, but it's not for everyone, including me.

Jim Frame
Frame Surveying & Mapping
609 A Street
Davis, CA 95616
framesurveying.com


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Williwaw
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February 28, 2016 12:44 pm  

I've belonged to three different unions along the course of my career. I'm vested in two of them. Each had its pros and cons. The common element to all three was I had union negotiated benefits and competitive wages (for the most part), something I found generally lacking in most of my non-union experience. My present situation is about as good as I could ask for. The caveat is that a large portion of my education and practical experience came from outside the union. The level of training one will obtain through a union apprenticeship is minimal and not what one can expect to lead to licensure. Just my experience.

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me.


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Newbie in NY
(@newbie-in-ny)
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February 28, 2016 12:44 pm  

I appreciate the info. I just wanted to add a little bit on where I'm coming from. I do hope to eventually become licensed, and I realize that union work is a whole different thing and it's not the type of work I think I'd like to do forever. And I know that I'd be sacrificing the necessary boundary experience. I guess I was looking at it more as a potential short-term lucrative opportunity. A way to possibly bank some good money for a couple years or so. Then maybe try to return to the kind of work I'm doing now. As a side note, I don't much mind construction surveying, I know a lot of guys hate it. Also, I don't live near or generally work in the city, and I was wondering if there's much of that type of work going on outside of the city.


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Rich.
(@rich)
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February 28, 2016 1:04 pm  

From ny here.

Never been in a union. Never will.

Never experienced union surveyors but I can say around here I view unions as "part time hours for overtime worth pay" not to mention a bunch of sitting around doing nothing.


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Dave Karoly
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February 28, 2016 1:15 pm  

That's one thing I never did.

Union shops are generally all field Union and all office non-Union. It's not ideal for me.

The problem is although you get twice the wage (plus fringes) you only work half the year, wait, uh, why is that a problem?

Union scale less than I'm getting now so I'm staying where I'm at until I retire.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? -1 Corinthians 15:55


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Peter Ehlert
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February 28, 2016 2:33 pm  

like [USER=10]@Jim Frame[/USER], I too worked Operating Engineers Local 3, just for a couple years back in the late 70's, maybe a bit longer, perhaps 3 or 4 years.

After working 4 or 5 jobs (layoffs were sudden, so were hires) I found that most firms had contracts that were a bit different than the other firms. The local was/is geographically huge, different areas had different pay rates, and different benefits.

Working Union also was 100% construction, 100% field. That was fine with me at the time... BUT People with 15-20 years of field experience never qualified for the LS exam. Damn!

After working nearly full time I had earned a bucket of pension credits. I left the area for 3 or 4 years (non union area, Oregon). When I got back and signed up as "out of work" I was told that because of my "lapse in service" my pension credits had gone up in smoke... back to square one.

So, the area you work in is highly important... other places are different. Times change, my old stories don't apply to Now on the other side of the country.

The Manual Of Instructions ... a History Book


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kjypls
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February 29, 2016 1:31 am  

I'd call the union guy that stopped and spoke with you.

Good luck on your career journey, wherever it may take you:plumbbob:


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skwyd
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February 29, 2016 8:32 am  

Like others, I spent some time in OE3 in California. The company at which I was employed wanted to move me out into the field and since all of our field crews were union surveyors, I joined the union.

I think the points have all been covered, but I'll reiterate that the pay was great, the benefits package was great, and if I had wanted to remain in the union until retirement, the pension package was great as well. I was able to remain employed full time year round because our field crews were specifically picked from the union to be at the company that employed me.

At any rate, once I was ready to take my licensing exam (my time of field and office experience was kind of jumbled) I moved back into the office and became a salaried employee and was necessarily no longer "union material" since i was considered "management".

I think the most important thing to do is to understand the specific laws in regards to unions, wages, benefits, and such that apply to the state and region where one is. Unions can be a great thing. But they aren't always. There are pros and cons and it is important to understand the specifics before making a decision.


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Peter Ehlert
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February 29, 2016 9:32 am  

Portability: can you change locations to another Union's domain and retain membership and benefits? (in my case I could not)

kjypls, post: 360144, member: 9749 wrote: I'd call the union guy that stopped and spoke with you.

good idea, maybe.
Union Reps wear two hats. 1. support the members 2. sell the membership to non members

The Rep has a vested interest in selling you on membership. He will paint a rosy picture. He "might" have your best interests in mind, maybe not.
probably having a few private conversations with long term members (in that very area) will shed some light.

an old joke/truism "Q: how do you tell when a salesman is lying? A: his lips are moving"

The Manual Of Instructions ... a History Book


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skwyd
(@skwyd)
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February 29, 2016 10:25 am  

This is the problem I have with some unions. Their "recruiting" isn't always in the potential recruits best interest.

On the one hand, large corporations can easily get an upper hand and exploit the labor force. And the primary goal of the union is to prevent this from happening. And it is a great idea and often serves the labor force well.

On the other hand, some unions can grow to a size where they start to resemble the corporations from which they are supposed to be protecting the labor force.

As was said, speaking with some long term members in the area about the history and reliability of the union would definitely be worthwhile.


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JNR114
(@jnr114)
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Joined: 1 week ago
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February 11, 2019 3:00 pm  

Hi,

I know this post is a few years old now, but I am curious and have a similar and related questions. I am in the process of considering the Apprenticeship Program in Northern CA. Can anyone shed a little more light on their experiences within the program and while participating in the Union, as required for the program. I see good information about good pay and benefits. That is all good. I see mixed results/descriptions about the type of work that will be done. "Mostly Construction Staking".  If my goal is to become a SIT and PLS, is this apprenticeship a good choice? Can anyone say add anything else?


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Jim Frame
(@jim-frame)
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February 11, 2019 3:25 pm  

If my goal is to become a SIT and PLS, is this apprenticeship a good choice? Can anyone say add anything else?

If it gets your foot in the door, why not?  The wages are good (don't count on the pension benefits unless you're in long enough to get vested) and you'll learn enough in a couple of years to be employable somewhere you can broaden your experience in line with your licensure goal.  Becoming an apprentice doesn't mean signing your life away, view it as a stepping stone to your destination.

Jim Frame
Frame Surveying & Mapping
609 A Street
Davis, CA 95616
framesurveying.com


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Tim V. PLS
(@tim-v-pls)
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February 11, 2019 3:56 pm  
Posted by: JNR114

 If my goal is to become a SIT and PLS, is this apprenticeship a good choice? Can anyone say add anything else?

Is that your goal?

What is your experience level now?

If you have a surveying degree your path to getting licensed will take longer going the union route for sure. If no degree, still might take longer because of the type of experience you'll get - predominantly construction surveying.

'Round here, Portland, OR area, there are only a couple of surveying companies that are union affiliated. I'm a member, IUOE Local 701.

Some of the large general contractors in the area directly hire local 701 surveyors, e.g., Turner Construction, Kiewit, Andersen Construction, Hoffman... but they don't typically have any licensed surveyors on staff, with an exception here and there.

 

This get paid a lot for doing nothing is BS. Like anywhere, there are some who are slackers and give the perception that everyone is like that. For the most part, these guys and gals put in a hard days work.


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