Proud to be Union
This year the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters would like to recognize Frank Travis for his dedication to our organization and to his Brothers and Sisters at Local 291.
Since becoming a part of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters and Local 291, I have been honored to meet many honorable and devoted members. I have found that each individual has their own personal reasons for deciding to remain a part of this organization but most everyone that I have spoken with has had one reason in common, Gratitude.
Frank Travis has been a devoted member of the Carpenters Union for over 65 years, becoming an apprentice when he was only 16 years old. After Mr. Travis finished his apprenticeship he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving our Country on Active Duty for 2 years. At the time he was working for a well-established contractor Lewis A. Swyer who told him that his job would be waiting for him when he returned, and it was. He worked for Mr. Swyer for 38 years.
Throughout his career with the Carpenters Union, Mr. Travis took every opportunity that was given to him to become a more skilled and knowledgeable Carpenter. In the 1960’s, he completed a 3-year degree program that was established by the Carpenters Union, Eastern Contractors Association and a Local Community College to educate foremen and superintendents.
I asked which jobs stood out as memorable and his list of jobs included the Unitarian Church in Schenectady, the 17-Story Hilton Hotel on State Street, the 12-Story KeyBank Headquarters on Pearl Street, The Penn Plaza Building in New York City, and the Folsom Library at RPI. Mr. Travis stated “Working on those project made me proud to get up and go to work each day. I enjoyed working with three mayors, Erartus Corning, Tom Whalen, and Jerry Jennings. The work provided a good living for me and my family and I worked for good people and made lasting friends.”
He said he “Feels very fortunate to have been affiliated with the Carpenter’s Union all these years,” and still attends the retirees monthly breakfast meetings and all of the yearly functions that he’s able to.
“I recommend to anyone wanting to become a Carpenter, to join the Union as I did. The Union provided for me great learning experiences in a rewarding trade that benefits other people.”
I would like to thank Mr. Travis for sitting down to share his views and memories of the Union, his beautiful wife of 57 years Joan, his son, his daughter, and his 5 grandchildren with me. I extremely enjoy meeting our Proud to be Union members!
I believe for a lot of members now a day’s, being a part of the union means the same thing as it did back in the 1950’s “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”. For our proud to be union recipient this year, that is the exact reason he joined the union.
Mr. Richard Horstman joined the union sixty years ago on September 10, 1956. At last year’s clam bake the first thing Mr. Horstman told me when I met him was that he has been a member of the union for fifty-nine years. I have learned many things about him since then, like how when he lost his job back in 1956, working for a non-union outfit, a good friend told him to go down to the hall to join the union. The cost was 50 dollars, that he didn’t have, but he knew that joining the union was the right thing to do for him and his family, so he asked his grandfather for the money. After his initiation he sat in the hall every day for what seemed to be weeks waiting to go to work. He remembers the day they sent him on his first job very vividly. He was sent to build 10 silos for three dollars and sixty-five cents an hour. That rate doesn’t seem like a lot today but for Mr. Horstman it was “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
While reminiscing about his work with the union he talked about many great memories. For instance, his love for working outside. He talked about how wonderful it felt to work on the barns at the Saratoga Race Track. That everything done there, then and now has to be historically preserved. Having to saw all the wood by hand really brings out the true carpenter in a person. He spoke to me about working at the Knickerbocker arena (Times Union Center) and remembers it was a “circus with no parking” but smiles when he thinks about it. Meeting and shaking the hand of Governor Rockefeller is definitely on the top on his list of great things that happened to him while he was working at the Egg in downtown Albany but his favorite was being able to work with his son on the 125th Street Bridge.
Getting to know Mr. Horstman has been my honor. As proud of being a part of the union that he is…. He is even more proud that most of his family is part of the union as well, including three out of his four children. His oldest son is also a retired member of the 291 and his youngest son is retired from the Electrical Union. His daughter is a member of the CSEA and works for the Shenendehowa School District, and both of his son-in-law’s are union retired, one from the auto makers and one from the teamsters. The Horstman’s are a Proud to be Union Family. Mr. Horstman now resides at his family home in Ballston Lake, where his father and his father’s father lived before him.
I would like to thank Mr. Horstman for being a Proud to be Union member for 60 years and for being a part of the men and women that make up this organization. It is a great honor to be a part of a place where the people take care of each other.
If I didn’t get to meet you at the fifth annual Local 291 Clam Bake, I am the new Albany Team Room Assistant Jennifer Brown. Since starting in the team room a month ago, I have had the pleasure of meeting many proud brothers and sisters of Local 291. While at this year’s picnic I met, father and son, Len and Matt Trexler. These two men stood out to me and I would like everyone to know why.
The first things that Mr. Trexler told me, was that, he has been in the union for almost 70 years and that he is 91 years old. His son Matt told me that between the two of them they have well over 100 years in the Union. That’s when I believe my inspiration really struck. I want to meet and talk to all of our Proud to be Union members and I want to introduce them to not only other brothers and sisters in their own local, but also to every other local in our Council. I am starting with these two men because, I believe that everyone in the union should meet and know them. Seeing two men, father and son, both being so proud to be a part of something that stands for hard work, comradery and brotherhood, really says something to me! You can see the pride in their eyes when they speak about the union. You should be proud that they are a part of your Union.
Mr. and Mrs. Len Trexler invited me into their home to be able to learn a little more about their life and Matt’s. Len said he joined the union in 1946 to “make a living”. After that he has never had the desire to do anything else. Len supported four children working as a union carpenter and he now has eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. All three of his sons were union members. Patrick has passed away, Gregory is retired in Florida and Matt retired from 370 and is now a retired member of Local 291. We talked a bit about how the union has changed over the years. They spoke about how there used to be locals for almost every city, and how Len knew all of the local members in Troy. It was a time before councils and governing, but Len says “times change” and “you go with it.” Matt’s brother Gregory is out a pension because in those times they didn’t transfer work history and Gregory traveled from, state to state and local to local, all over the country. Matt believes that even though times have changed, his “voice is still heard because he has a big mouth.”
Len told me that in the 40’s and 50’s “you had to work to keep your job or you lost it.” So he worked. In the 60’s Len was the Super on the Saratoga Raceway expansion (this is the expansion that doubled the seating capacity of the facility). He said he, unfortunately, did not get to finish the project because the union called for a strike. At the time the union was fighting for your right to work 7 hour days. That strike, apparently, ended with the union getting the 7 hour days, but that was quickly changed back with the next negotiation to raise wages. Matt and Len both agree that you give and you get.
The men also agree on their way of life. Matt says he learned everything from his father, and that they both live by the same code; family first, then Union. Len and Matt both refuse to give patronage to anyone that does not pay a fair wage. Matt told me a story about picketing in front of Walmart. He was handing out balloons to children entering the store that read, “Unfair wage practice” on one side. As our laughter filled the room he added that, “the kids didn’t care as long as they had Mickey Mouse on the other side.” Matt is a devoted union member just like his father. Once he was requested on a job site that wanted to use non-union subs. He refused to work unless everyone onsite was union, including painters and roofers. Guess what? He won them work too! This father/son duo’s love of the union is contagious. I have now found myself looking and investigating to see if a company pays fair wages before giving my business. The Trexler men are union through and through, and they have a few words of wisdom for the next generation.
- If you work a decent days work for a decent days pay, you will always have a job.
- Your tools will always speak on your behalf.
- Start planning and saving for your future now, because one day you won’t be able to swing your hammer or climb that latter.
I want to thank both Len and Matt for welcoming me into their home and sharing their stories. I am very grateful to have met both of them and I look forward to meeting all of our Proud to Be Union Members!