As I open my eyes on an early Monday morning, the first thing I hear is my dad say, “Wake up!” It was early in the morning and, to be honest, I felt like I was still asleep. It was my first morning of work, and even though I was tired, I was glad that I was going to win some money. When we got to the construction site, I thought, “Wow”. For the very first time I learned what sheetrock was, and how it all comes together. Two other workers were there that day too, Jose and Pedro. They showed me a little bit of how to put the sheetrock, but their explanations weren’t that clear for me. My dad’s explanation to put the sheets was better for me, but only because he got mad at me every time I did something wrong. After that, I tried not to make another mistake. The sheets were too heavy for me, but two years into the job, I have no problems carrying them and setting them in place. My dad also taught me how to tape and float, which is way easier.
For me, this is not the only job I know how to do. I also know how to do brick repair like my uncle. My uncle Lucio, has taught me well to do the job and today I have about two years with this job being a second job when he needs me. These two jobs have been good to me and helpful too as I have learn new ways to work inside a house, and also outside with the brick work. Learning about these jobs is easy, but the hazards that we are exposed to, and the low pay, can affect us in a bad way.
I asked my dad how long he has been working on this job and he told me, “I have been working on this for about fifteen years now, putting sheetrock and doing tape and float, at first it was hard but once you get the hang, it will be super easy”. On hot days this job will kill you but luckily sometimes we are inside the fresh ac. When it’s cold your hands will suffer but once you start working your body will get warmed. In sheetrock, tape and float, I’ve heard from my dad that there has been people who have been badly injured or have messed up the job by ruining cables or other items. That’s when I asked if he has ever been injured or had an accident with cables or other important items at different jobs, he replied, “Luckily no, but I have been close to being injured, and this can mean that I have to be more careful when I do this. For electrical cables or other items in the work site, I haven’t gotten in any problems with the cables or electrical boxes, I can just make cutouts on the sheetrock.”
Brick repair jobs are not as easy as I thought they might be at first. By being under the hot sun in summer and in the cold during the winter, we can often get sick – obviously not a good thing. These two years though, I have managed to work through this since I don’t like working at restaurants or other places.
I have also asked my uncle how long he has been doing this job and he replied, “I have been doing this job for about 10 years, ever since I came from Mexico”. He likes his job and he would not change it, he said that this job has given him all he wanted. In the Brick Repair job, when it’s my turn to help my uncle, we would go to different places around the city. It’s good seeing the city and working with my feels good. Another question that I asked him was that when he first started working on this, was the job hard? He looked at me and said to me, “No, not really, I’m a fast learner, and this job to me was easy the first time I tried it”. Some bosses at job sites can be very cheap or maybe not want to give you a good pay, this is can be in both sheetrock and brick repair jobs. “When I first started working in the brick repair job, my first boss did not pay me good, he treated me bad too, and I didn’t really like it, but once I learned, I knew that he wasn’t paying well so I left”. My uncle told me this while we were working, and he didn’t seem happy about it.
Another good worker for me in the sheetrock job is my cousin Noe. He hasn’t been for long doing this job with me and my dad, he only has 8 years of experience. Its good working with him and when my dad has another job he has to take care of, me and my cousin go to another job my dad has for us. At first I thought this job was hard for him, taping and floating as well, but I decided to ask him if this job was hard when he started, he replied, “No not to me, the sheets for me aren’t heavy and once I got the hang of this, I’m a master at doing this job”. My cousin has also adapted well in this country, he came to this country when he was just one year old, and he went to school here, but dropped out in 9th grade. Although he has not been working with us for a long time, his old boss wasn’t all that good with him. The old boss always gave him a low pay, and he didn’t let him have any days off. This is one reason why he came to work with me and my dad which is good. His English has helped my dad in this job too when I didn’t work with them, and it has helped us grow in the business.
This job consists of nothing but hard work, waking up early and not being scared of the hot sun. Putting sheetrock into the walls is easy, all I have to do is just help my dad hold them up and then putting nails and screws on the sheets. Doing tape and float after hanging the sheetrock is what I find a little difficult. Taping and floating is when you put ‘soquete’ mud or quickset in the walls so it can all be ready to paint, and it is harder than it sounds. When I started learning this, it was hard, but my dad would always scream at me and tell me exactly how to do it to keep the bosses happy. Depending on the job, this doesn’t take us a long time to finish, especially now that we only do remodeling. The tools for this aren’t that heavy; basically just some tape to put in between the openings of the sheets, a mud pan and some knifes to put the mud in the walls. Now that I know how to do this job well, it is really easy for me.
On my first brick repair job with my uncle, it was hard for me too, just like sheetrock was, but once I got the hang of it, it became a breeze. The tools used for this job are a special spoon and some cement to put the bricks, but sometimes you will need a big sledge hammer to tear some old brick from a wall. The only thing I don’t like about working in this is that it is always hot outside. Those hot summer days under the sun kill me, but all you need is a cold water bottle next to you. If you are asking yourself if we need uniform for these jobs, no we don’t. All you really need for brick repair is a long sleeve shirt and some working boots. My uncle in this job is not a really a type of boss that is demanding, he does his job good and had patience with me when I first started working with him.
Like I said earlier, my uncle likes this job and he wouldn’t change it for anything. He says, “When you love to do something, you find unlimited ways to be able to do what it is that you love to do”. When a job seems hard to us, he always finds a way to do and finish the job. That is why he has been successful and has never backed down from a job, with a lot of hard work and dedication.
At both jobs, you’ll find mostly Hispanics at work. On the sheetrock job, I have mostly met Mexicans who work with my dad or that tell me they also do the job. On the other side, the brick work seems to be mostly people out of Central America. In both cases, the people who work here come to the United States for a better life, and to me, that is inspiring. They either take care of their families or send money to their home countries. Although it can be rough too, because there are times when people have to leave the country because they are immigrants, or when they get very low pay because they are immigrants. I also think that thanks to one of these people who came to the United States, are why we have a lot of work. Why? Because one guy who came from Guatemala named Martin, gave the idea to my dad to put a sign of what he does on the Yellow pages. These Yellow Pages, is where people can put their own information so they can jobs or so people can look at their restaurants. This has helped my dad and uncle a lot and hopefully in the future it can help them even more.
My uncle and like I said earlier my cousin Noe, both came from another country, Mexico. It has been somewhat good for both of them coming to the United States, and for now they are well stable here. I’ve asked them once if they are happy here and if they are okay with what they have done in life. Both said yes, even though it hasn’t been an easy road and they have been mistreated or gotten low pay, it has all been worth it. To be honest, if my cousin and uncle would have stayed in Mexico, who knows what they would have done in life and thankfully they are here.
On my job people also travel to different cities in case there is no work in Houston. That was the case about eight years ago, for my dad. He had to travel to Virginia because there was a big hospital ready to be worked on. My dad told me he didn’t like it there, he said it was lonely to be over there and that he and his assistant had to work in a little town that felt sad. My dad also had to go to Tennessee to work there for some time. He has told me that we moved over there back when I was born and that there was a lot of good work there. “We lived in a small house there, and it was me, your mom, you, and your cousin. We worked every day, all day — there were no breaks and almost all the jobs we got were huge jobs for new houses”. I have asked my uncle if he has ever had to move to another place for this job, but he has told me no, that he has always been stable here, but that there have been times there was no work at all.
It has been a long road from when I first started to work at these two jobs. I have learned many new things because of them. I have also seen bad things such as immigrants being mistreated, workers being underpaid, and people who get injured and don’t have health insurance. There are also fire hazards that are present when an electrical cable is nailed.
Some people want change, but unfortunately some can’t say anything because they are not from here, and don’t speak English or are afraid of deportation. In the future, I plan to do my best to resolve these issues by opening my own construction company, where I will treat people with respect and kindness. My cousin and uncle came to this country to change their lives, and thanks to my dad, they have accomplished that. I will also try to help them, as well as any other people who will want to work with me in construction. I am in college to earn a degree in Business Administration so that I can one day help those people who need it the most. It will be hard, but it will also definitely be worth it. I will open a company for something that I like to do, and for the people that I care about. Because of that, in the end, all those hot days and cold winter mornings will have all been worth it.