“I always like to improve my method of organizing. There’s always something to learn.” –Martin Sanchez
Each week, we’ll share a post getting to know a member of the Guild community. This week, we’re excited to learn from Martin Sanchez, Organizer, New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC).
Martin has been a member of NERCC for 17 years, and has been an organizer with the union off and on for the past eight years. In this position, his main role is educating the membership and organizing non-unionized workers. This means helping people understand what the union is and does, and why it is so important.
The transition from a non-union job to being a union member is something Martin can speak to firsthand. Before joining the carpenters’ union, Martin worked for three years as a wood framer without the support and protection of a union. “A carpenter organizer told me, ‘look, you can make more decent wages and have a better style of life.’ So somebody helped me, and I would like to pass it on.”
Martin spends much of his time visiting sites where workers are not unionized, and many of them do not know about organized labor. “They think they just have to work for what the boss is giving them,” he says. He has seen sites where people are receiving far below minimum wage ($10 or even $8, when the minimum is $11 in Massachusetts), and where subcontractors are taking advantage of undocumented workers and refusing to pay them after they have already completed projects. Some contractors are repeat offenders, continuously hiring and exploiting workers.
One way the carpenters unions have been successful in fighting back against this kind of exploitation is by exposing contractors so that developers will not work with them again. Martin says that they have had success in these cases particularly when working with local developers, because they are more accountable to the communities in which they are building.
According to Martin, the demands on carpenters to perform at a high level make it hard to get members excited about participating in union meetings and other activities after work, especially since they have to be on the job at 7 am. He is experimenting with creating opportunities for members to bring their families to union events, to work better with people’s busy lifestyles.
This is Martin’s first term taking classes at The Labor Guild, and it has helped him think about his work in new ways. The stories shared by his instructors Rand Wilson and Paul Feeney, and the round table discussions have given him “a lot of knowledge, stuff that I want to put into practice. You have your own style, but when you hear from other people you can incorporate that.”
The Guild is lucky to have a Martin as a student and community member!