Our apprentice members are what truly make our organization standout in a crowd. We have many amazing apprentices with many backgrounds and different personalities and have a real passion for what they do. So, we thought what better way to acknowledge the successes of our apprentice members, is to have them share their stories.
Lorain Local 758 Apprentice
Everyone has a story to tell. How did you get started in Laboring, what did you do before, what are your hobbies, what makes you interesting? But few people have a story like Matthew Knoepp’s. His is a story that should garner respect and gratefulness from every American, but you probably would not know it from an encounter with him. On the surface, he comes across as a hardworking, polite young man,not unlike many other Apprentices.
So what makes Matt so special? Before Laboring, he went to places and did things most people will only read about or watch in a movie or on the news. He joined the United States Marine Corp directly after high school, shortly after the start of the Iraq War. During his 4 years of dedicated service, Matt did two seven-month tours in Iraq in the infantry operating traffic checkpoints and clearing buildings and towns,some of the most dangerous and heroic duties in Iraq. In addition to his Iraq tours, his service included going to New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina where he provided security and took part in search and rescue missions.
While no one compares Laboring to active duty in the military, many of the traits that make a good Marine transfer easily to the trade. Dependability, hardworking, team player - all traits necessary to be a good laborer - were instilled in Matt while serving our country. Mark Scarberry (Local 758 Business Manager) described him as a hard worker who is eager to learn and never complains. “He’s the text book apprentice. I wish I had 10 more like him. He just wants to be part of it.”
Matthew is definitely part of the Laboring family now. He is a third-year apprentice working for Fabrizi Trucking & Paving, and in his case, Laboring truly is a family affair. His brother, Rob, is his foreman. The brothers work surprisingly well together; they describe it as “productive bickering.” The Knoepp brothers and the rest of their crew do a variety of things including: asphalt,landscape restoration, drainage, and grading. But Matt’s favorite job so far has been installing water taps. He likes “to get dirty and put stuff together.”
If Matt wasn’t getting dirty as a Laborer,he has no idea what he would be doing. The job has been “a blessing” to him. He couldn’t take care of his family on the wages he was getting prior to Laboring. The Knoepp brothers both speak highly of the Training Center and recommend all Laborers take advantage of the classes. The more you know, the better off you’ll be. Matthew hopes his hard work and dedication lead to him becoming a foreman or superintendent one day. And if not, he said he will just keep working hard until his body can’t take it anymore. Whatever the future holds for him, it indeed looks bright for this true American hero.
The LIUNA Membership Oath reads:“I do hereby solemnly pledge that, as a member of the Laborers' International Union of North America and of this Local Union, I will be active in its affairs, loyal to its cause and interests,and obedient to my constitutional obligations and responsibilities. In the fulfillment of this commitment I will regularly attend Union meetings and volunteer my time as a VOICE organizer, on picket lines, in get-out-the-vote efforts and in local charities or community activities on the Union's behalf. I will be true to my responsibilities as a citizen of the United States or Canada.So help me God.”
Matthew Knoepp embodies this sentiment of active, loyal, and responsible duty both in his work as a Laborer and in his previous service as a U.S. Marine. Please join OLFBP in thanking Matthew Knoepp and all other veterans for their service.
Warren Local 935 Apprentice
Life often throws curveballs at you. What a person does with them is a true measure of the person. Lori Baumgarner has seen her share of curveballs, but they’ve made her a stronger,more driven person who doesn’t settle. She became a young single mother shortly after graduating high school. To support herself and her son, Chance, she worked as a waitress, but still found time to go to college full-time at the Salem branch of Kent State. She had a plan, get her degree in nutrition and find a solid job.
Although it wasn’t easy juggling school,work, and parenting, Lori’s plan was going along well until the end of her first year of school. Then, another life altering curveball came her way. She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, and was told she may not survive it. School and work had to be put on hold. Fighting cancer and spending time with her young son became her new plan. After a tough two year battle, she had won the fight and was ready for the next chapter in her life.
Lori first thought going back to school to finish her degree was her best option, but that didn’t last long. She needed a good job with benefits to support her and Chance; that’s when she found Laboring. Her uncle was a Laborer and helped her get a job with his contractor where she was exposed to what Laborers do and the benefits they receive. She eventually joined the Apprenticeship Program in 2005. She worked for a few companies as an apprentice, but mostly with Kreidler Construction. She mostly worked building trades doing demolition, remodeling, mason tending,and cleanup.
Lori graduated from the Apprenticeship Program in 2009. After graduating and transferring to Local 809, she began working for a large general contractor where she was exposed to the safety side of construction. This exposure to a different element of construction changed her career path and led her to where she is today. She heard about Columbia Southern University from one of the safety reps on the job. She looked into the school and discovered that with her previous classes at Kent State and the Drexel J. Thrash Training Center she would only need to take 11 additional classes to get a Bachelors Degree in Occupational Safety & Health. In an ever evolving career path, this seemed like the obvious choice for her. She received her degree and left Laboring in 2011.
Lori worked for a couple of different oil and gas companies from 2011 through 2015 in various safety inspector and manager roles. Although she loved the work, she didn’t love the 10 to 16 hour workdays. The work life balance just wasn’t what she needed or wanted. Having cancer sucked, but surviving cancer gave her a different perspective. She wasn’t going to settle, and she wasn’t going to work herself to death and miss out on precious time with her family and friends either.
In January of this year, Lori became the newest instructor at the Drexel J. Thrash Training Center and the first instructor who has completed the Apprenticeship Program. She will be teaching several classes including: Gas Pipeline Worker, OSHA 30, STP, Craft Orientation, Confined Space, Excavation Safety, and First Aid/CPR. This position seems like a perfect fit for her. She is still exposed to the field she loves, but has the work/life balance she needs. She’s looking forward to making a difference and teaching.
If you ask Lori, everything she has done was done to give her son the best life possible. However, she has learned a lot about herself along the way and has become a great example for others. An example of where Laboring can take you. An example to never give up, despite what curveballs life throws at you.