We all need to hear stories of determination, hope and recovery. It’s what the construction industry as a whole wants to see happen. It’s what our economy needs to see happen. It’s what local construction laborer Rodney Johnson embodies.
From our friends at Trojan Labor in Nashville, I wanted to share a great interview with one of their construction laborers. Unemployed and wanting to make it on his own, Rodney left Florida over six months ago. And here is what he had to say:
Trojan Labor Nashville: Rodney, how difficult was it to leave your home, family … friends?
Rodney Johnson: Really difficult. But I felt kept, like a house cat. I wanted to earn my own.
TLN: What did you do when you got to Nashville? Did you have a place to stay?
RJ: I had to stay at the mission. (Nashville Rescue Mission). It’s a good place to try to save your money until you get to the next level. I could walk from there to Trojan Labor every day.
TLN: I didn’t even know that it was walking distance.
RJ: Sure, I’d get some exercise.
TLN: What happened here at Trojan Labor?
RJ: I did all the paperwork and they didn’t treat me any different…me coming from the mission and all.
TLN: Did you work right away?
RJ: Yes, pretty much right away.
TLN: And was work available every day or was it sporadic?
RJ: I’d say most of the time I was working. There were probably a couple of days I didn’t work. Most of the time I was working.
TLN: That tells me you were here at 5 am every morning. And you’d already exercised…
TLN: Tell us about the work you were sent out on. How was it on a day-to-day basis? How were treated. And no need to sugar-coat it.
RJ: I was treated real well but I have to admit, though, on the bigger jobs, when they saw me coming with my long hair (I’d cover it with a hat) but I think maybe they thought I wasn’t serious.
TLN: Because of the way you looked?
(He shows me dreadlocks that’ve been tucked into his jacket).
RJ: Yeah. But after a few days, they took me seriously.
TLN: Oh, so you were asked back?
RJ: Yeah, they give me a repeat. (For our readers: a "repeat ticket" is when an employer requests a particular worker back.)
TLN: That’s cool – so you were judged on your work, then, in the end?
RJ: You have to prove it to employers – that you’re really serious about working. They want to see that you will work, and that you’re willing to work, that you’re awake and alert and that you’re not coming to work with any other distraction. I think if your expectation for yourself is even higher than theirs… if you’re ‘stand up’, then they’ll respect you.
TLN: So no complaints?
RJ: Except getting lost in big buildings! (laughter)
TLN: What are your hopes for the future, Rodney?
RJ: (big smile) I hope to be the leader of a reggae band.
TLN: Well, this is the right city for it! Wow. You sing?
RJ: Sing, write, play guitar, drums. I was born with some talents and I gotta keep the dream alive. Even though I work every day. I’m keeping the dream alive… that one day I might be able to do that.
TLN: Well, we hope so too! Thank you so much, Rodney, it’s our pleasure at Trojan Labor to know you.
Thanks to Jolene Dressel at Trojan Labor for sharing this interview and best wishes to Rodney and other laborers this holiday season.