Union job openings bring out the job seekers

2013-05-01T14:45:00Z 2013-05-01T16:39:06Z Union job openings bring out the job seekersBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

MUNSTER | A once-a-year chance to get an application to become a union construction laborer attracted 984 people Wednesday to the headquarters of Local 41 of the Laborers International Union of North America.

Every year, the four-hour event attracts people from far and wide, some unemployed and others working but looking for better jobs, according to Kevin Roach, Local 41 business manager.

"They like the potential earnings, the health care and the pension that is provided, at no cost to them – that's all a big draw," Roach said.

Apprentices earn wages of $20 per hour on the job and a journeyman's current contract wage is $35.48 per hour, Roach said. The benefit package for each adds another $15 per hour to the total compensation package.

People who took applications now have until 4:30 p.m. Monday to get their applications turned in to Local 41, Roach said. Everyone who fills out an application will be called for an interview within a year.

Local 41 puts its members to work in Lake County on job sites within its jurisdictional territory, which stretches from Cline Avenue to the state line. The local also has jurisdiction in all of Newton and Jasper counties.

One applicant camped out overnight Tuesday to be first in line Wednesday morning, but that wasn't really necessary, Roach said.

At 8 a.m., parking was scarce and the line of would-be-applicants stretched around the union hall's parking lot and all the way down Superior Avenue to the Community Veterans Memorial. But by mid-morning, parking was plentiful and there was no line as a steady stream of men and women picked up applications and asked a few questions.

The early morning rush even slowed traffic on nearby Calumet Avenue, with Munster police putting out an 8:39 a.m. traffic advisory for motorists to avoid that stretch of road if possible.

The number of applicants for laborers' jobs peaked during the recession, Roach said. About 1,600 people took applications on a single day in 2010. Last year, about 1,200 were handed out.

The Northwest Indiana unemployment rate is still hovering around 10.3 percent and the Indiana unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Both are significantly higher than the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.

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