By Jacob Bourne, Contributing Writer and Photographer
Close to 1,000 members of Sign Display Local 510 got the annual Salesforce convention up and running over an intense eleven-day period. The Dreamforce 2017 trade show featured a “trailblazers” theme fully decked out with nature backdrops imbuing a large area in and around Moscone Center West with hiking, camping and wilderness scenery. In what was described as a long and challenging set up for the show, many crew members worked overtime to ensure everything was ready for opening day. More than 300 workers were present any given day installing rustic panels, hanging signs, laying carpet and installing three dimensional decorations such as foam “mountains”. Their efforts paid tribute to the National Parks and one could almost smell the great outdoors in Downtown San Francisco.
Sign installers, decorators and machinery operators mastered new skills this year as trade show technology has evolved with advanced materials and capabilities. The theatrical vibe was tangible with Local 510 crews collaborating with quiet yet energetic efficiency. Seasoned production managers remarked at the record number of apprentices and journeymen on the roster this year, allowing for little reliance on additional help. Business agents and field representatives were credited with effective planning for a smooth set up and opening.
–Voices From the Union–
I’ve been with the Local for 24 years. Things have been good over the years; the union has treated me very well. The job is demanding. We work really hard and have fought for and negotiated a good contract. We uphold our end of the bargain by putting in the necessary work to produce great shows.
It’s important to go to meetings to stay informed and be aware of the changes that are happening in the industry and membership. I have a lot of production experience and have formed strong relationships with people in the industry over the years, so I understand the big picture of what it takes to get things done.
I’ve done about 10 Dreamforce shows and it’s a very demanding event. It’s a learning opportunity and poses many challenges as well. Things are never really done. Even after the show opens there are changes that happen and logistical issues come up. Timing is everything.
Alan Van Tress
Our union allows artists to make a good living; this is very much a union of artists. We’ve had many with a background as mural artists, sign painters and others who’ve worked in the arts in some capacity. This job is really about aesthetics and you have to be very detail oriented.
I’ve been a shop steward for a decade now and a journeyman since 1990. The stewarding really elevated my thinking in the sense of being able to represent hundreds of people. I’ve also taught OSHA safety classes to our apprentices, so being a shop steward has really expanded my awareness of the dynamics on the floor of the trade show. Everyone plays a role in safety and contributing to a good work environment.
This work pays a living wage. It allows me to spend my money locally. A good paying job helps solidify the local economy.
Level One Apprentice
I heard about the Local from friends who were apprentices and then worked as an extra until the apprenticeship cycle started in June. I had previously worked at a labor center and for Jobs with Justice, so had some connection with labor and that’s how I met people in this union.
All the workers and business reps have been amazing. I feel that I get access to a lot of work and training. People seem excited to have apprentices and everyone has your back, which has been great.
Something that I really like about this job is that it’s really different every day. Especially as an apprentice, you work with different crews and on many different tasks. For this show we’re doing the final finishing touches with putting in walls and signs and installing PVC panels that match the theme.
It’s such a great experience to be taught a trade from the ground up. Going through the apprenticeship program was a big advantage. Besides learning on the show floor, you get a lot of specialized skills through training. I’m in one of the highest skill set areas doing rigging – it’s not something I would have pictured myself doing before but through the program I was able to acquire the necessary skills. The beauty of this job is that you can specialize but also develop so many skills to use in different situations.
I have an interest in getting involved at the business agent level. We have a lot of jurisdictional conflicts and I’m really interested in securing more work for the union. I want to help further our hold in the area.
Level Four Apprentice
The apprenticeship has been really awesome. You learn new things like operating the forklift and boomlift and can get certifications. The full health benefits are great. We get great hours and its never a dull moment; you’re always learning something different. I’ve been doing a bit of everything on this job.
I was working in construction before this. It was non union and involved a lot of heavy lifting, working in harsh weather conditions and people yelling. My neighbor told me about this opportunity and it’s a great job where you’re not breaking your back. We’re really big on safety. If something’s too heavy for one person to lift, you always ask for help. That wasn’t my experience in construction.
Level One Apprentice
I heard about the apprentice program from a friend who told me I could work as an extra and see if I liked it. I enjoy this type of work and so applied to the apprentice program and luckily got in. It’s been six months now and it’s been going really well.
I want to be involved with the Local for the rest of my life. The money is good and I have fun doing this job. I work with different people and the work is different everyday, which keeps things interesting.
My family is happy for me. I’m the first person in my family to be in a union and I plan on attending meetings. This has been a new experience for me. Through the apprenticeship program I’ve been learning more about what it means to be part of a union.
I love the job, I love the people and every show is different – some more challenging and interesting than others. One of the best things is getting to work with great individuals and it has been exciting to learning something new everyday. I also love being in the union. I feel my job is protected and have a resource to fall back on. I have somebody watching my back.
Everyone in my family has been with unions. The Local 510 is like one large family and has always been that way. I often go to meetings though sometimes they’re scheduled during work so can’t make them.
The Dreamforce show is a challenging one with long hours and a long put in. We do it every year so it gets smoother and smoother every time.