A century of signmaking
For a century, NYC’s Sheet Metal Workers Local 137 members have installed most of the signs, awnings, banners, billboards and spectaculars that cover Times Square, Manhattan, Long Island, and the rest of New York and New Jersey.
A force unto itself, the union emphasizes the three E’s: employment, education and empowerment. This triangular foundation supports Local 137’s efforts to build a strong membership (currently 700) of workers skilled in designing, fabricating and installing signage throughout the NYC metropolitan area. In maintaining its worker base, the union reinforces the teaching of the sign craft with on-the-job training. Apprentices learn signmaking basics and advance to skills required for fabricating and installing signs on billboards, buildings and skyscrapers, or on roadsides.
Peter Scaglione, training coordinator for the Local 137 apprenticeship program, said members who graduate as journeymen hold approximately 19 licenses and certifications. This includes 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA licenses; an American Welding Society certification; a commercial driver’s license; varying scaffold licenses; an aerial-lift certification; and a New York State crane license.
The first leg of Local 137 training is summarized by “empowerment is employment.” Only people working at union signshops can participate in the training program, which is conducted in the union’s training center in Long Island City. Entry to the training program requires new hires (ranging between 18 to 25 years) to possess a valid driver’s license; a high-school diploma or GED equivalent; and be interviewed to establish their English, math and reading proficiencies.
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