In our continuing series with Local 11 leadership, News @ 11 recently spoke to Executive Board Member John Parks about his work with the union and his “sweet” side job.
Q: What made you decide to join the union?
JP: My friend’s dad got me in almost 20 years ago. I got screwed over out of a bonus with the company I was at. He was always telling me, ‘If you want to be taken care of, you’ve got to go union.’ I blew him off for years until I got screwed over and I finally said, ‘All right let’s go union. Let’s give it a shot?’
Q: Which proved to be a good decision?
JP: The best decision of my life! I’m protected. If I can’t do something, I don’t have to worry about being fired because I’m unable to do it. If somebody wants me to do something dangerous, I don’t have to worry about it. The union take a little percentage of my paycheck to make sure that they keep me working for the rest of my life. And I have worked solidly for a good 19 years.
Q: What are some of the other benefits of being an IBEW member?
JP: The union has the ETI and all that good stuff. We educate ourselves through it and we get our own certifications to be recognized at a state level. I couldn’t go over the amount of benefits there are to being in the union. There are so many.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your career and how you came up through the ranks?
JP: I’m a first generation electrician in my family and also first generation union. I got offered the chance to be an electrician, and it took me about five years to get into it. I thought about it deeply and thought, ‘Is this a career? Do I want do this type of work for the rest of my life?’ And I thought, ‘Yeah it’s physical. I enjoy building, I’ve always been in constriction, so yeah.’ And it’s been the best, better than I ever thought.
Q: Did you come up through the apprenticeship program?
JP: I’m a meritorious upgrade which meant I did four years of my apprenticeship and got out almost eight months early. The deal with that was that I would start teaching right away. I spearheaded our day school program. I was the first instructor they hired to design it and build it for the first six months before we started taking students in. Then I was an instructor for about four and a half years.
Q: What did you enjoy about teaching?
JP: I love that you can see somebody just figure something out. It’s such an awesome moment when somebody just picks something up or just when you’re expressing what you know and you’re furthering people to be as good as you. The whole point of teaching is to make them as good as I am if not better, to make my union as strong if not stronger. It was awesome to show people what I knew and to just fine tune their skills to make them better.
Q: What have been some of the most memorable projects you have worked on?
JP: When I worked for Morrow Meadows back in 2005, we built the Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City. There were like six of us who were responsible for the maternity ward and the whole third floor. It was just awesome. And then of course, the police station and fire department in Santa Monica. I had just come into the union and my first job was a brand new fire station and police station with a jail inside. That was so awesome to build.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal background and family?
JP: I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and I moved out to Orange County about six years ago. I have two kids from my first marriage and my current wife has three kids so together we have a total of five. The three oldest are in their 20s and out the door, and two of them live with us. My first granddaughter just turned a year old.
Q: What else would you like members to know about you?
JP: I’m just here to help the members and help other people to get to the level I’m at or, if not, get beyond my level. I’ve always been that kind of person. If you have an opportunity to help somebody else, you’ve got to do it. They’re your brothers and sisters in the union.
Q: And you have an interesting side business, right?
JP: I have a little cookie company I started roughly two years ago called Who Loves Cookies? I had some time on my hands a couple years ago and I would start baking around the house and bringing cookies to work for the guys. Everyone loved it and they would say, ‘Dude you’ve got to sell these.’ Now we go to the swapmeet every weekend and I sell cookies that I love to make. I got my state license got everything, my cottage home permit so I’m able to cook out of my house with the state knowing about it. Hopefully I’ll get my vaccination soon and I will be out there selling again.