L.A. GANG MEMBERS FIND NEW HOME IN LABOR UNIONS
SAM QUINONES, LA TIMES - A large and growing number of Southern
California gang members . . . have joined building-trade unions over the
last decade as construction work has boomed. These good-paying jobs were
once reserved for those with family connections, as fathers recruited
sons. But today, beset by nonunion competition and an aging membership,
unions have stepped up recruitment in minority enclaves where many young
men have criminal pasts. Now homeboy recruits homeboy.
Members of Dog-patch, in Bellflower, and West Side Wilmas, in
Wilmington, are in the Ironworker Union Locals 416 and 433. Members of
the 204th Street gang in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles are in
the Sheet Metal Workers Local 105. And members of the South Side 18th
Street Tiny Diablos are Teamsters.
"We probably make up the majority of the workforce now," said Albert
Frey, once a Crip and crack dealer, now an apprentice with the
Steam-Refrigeration-Air Conditioning-Pipefitters Union Local 250. . .
For decades, membership in the building trades was tightly restricted.
Unions controlled most of the work sites throughout Southern California
and kept their numbers low. Most members were white. But even that
wasn't enough to get into a union. . .
By the early 1990s, veteran union members were retiring and membership
fell, while work and nonunion contractors flourished.