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SWEAT OF THE BROW LESSONS FROM THE JOB SITE
Well, it may not feel like it yet, but summer is coming to a close. If you have kids, as I do, I’m sure you’ve been going through the back-to- school routine. This year, Jude is going into the first grade. At his school, this means he’ll have to wear a button-up shirt along with shoes with laces. He’s proud to be in “big boy” clothes! But despite all the end-of-summer craziness that comes with being a father, I always spare a thought for the real heroes this time of year: construction workers. If you’ve never worked in the industry, let me tell you, summers are the absolute worst it can get for builders in this state. And yet, despite the blazing heat and humidity, these men and women get out every day and help build the infrastructure that makes our lives possible. I know from first-hand experience how hard this work can be. “You don’t really know the value of a dollar until you’re kneeling on a metal roof in 90-degree temperatures watching your shoes melt on galvanized steel.” As the son of a contractor, I worked construction every summer, starting when I was 12 years old. As a kid, I was excited to be able to hang out with my dad, but my father has never been one to “just hang out.” He was sure to put me to work. I still remember my very first job on the construction site. My dad’s business mainly focused on constructing the metal framework for commercial spaces, meaning a lot of the work was spent bolting steel beams together. As a kid, I put the nuts and bolts together ahead of time so they would already be assembled for the guys attaching the beams to one another. When that was done, I spent the rest of my time hunting for tools the older workers needed, running up and down construction sites as a gofer.
As I grew, so did my responsibilities. Soon enough, I was the one doing the bolting and roof work, and I came to understand just how tough this job can be. Again, we worked primarily with metal structures in the summer with no shade to speak of. Sunburns were unavoidable. We used to drench our shirts in water during our breaks just to be able to go up and keep working. Those summers were harder than any time during the school year and taught me just as much, if not more. You don’t really know the value of a dollar until you’re kneeling on a metal roof in 90-degree temperatures watching your shoes melt on galvanized steel. You can bet I was excited to get back to an air-conditioned classroom come September. I owe my get-up-and-grind attitude to those summers. Law school gave me the knowledge to practice the law, but construction is where I got the willpower to pore over case notes for hours on end. Most importantly, that construction work taught me exactly who I wanted to help once I passed the bar. Most of the guys my dad hired were friends and family. My brother and uncle were on the job with me, facing the same sweltering, dangerous conditions. Both of them sustained bad falls during roofing projects and broke multiple bones. Having seen the struggles and the dangers of construction work up close, I wanted to do my part to give workers a voice under the law. Those long days on the construction site were extremely formative for me. They gave me the gumption to pursue a career in law and a deep empathy for the folks out there making a living by the sweat of their brow. So, no matter how crazy things get for me this August, I’ll always spare a thought for the construction worker.
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