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Above is a photo I took at the Athens Bechtel project in the early stages as the last steel was topped off by Local 12 Ironworkers"

"Ironworkers are the first to tell you they're a little crazy.

It's a quality they're proud of, along with their courage and craft." They call themselves 'cowboys of the sky', the guys who bolted together the Golden Gate Bridge, the St. Louis Arch, the World Trade Center.”

The Ironworkers Prayer

Monuments built by human hands;

Bridges, towers and buildings, too
By men who work for me and you.

Men with strong and callused hands
Who toil all day upon our lands.
They work in weather dark and dreary;
When day is done they come home weary.

They work in hottest heat of day
And earn every bit of their weekly pay.
They work in mud and sleet and snow
And go where others dare not go.

They work alone and with each other
And that is why they're called "Brother"
They climb where angels fear to tread
They never look down in fear or dread.

So, Don't wait till the bye and bye
To say a prayer to the one on high
For men on whom we all rely,
Bless the Ironworker in the sky.

Author Unknown

Local 12 Ironworkers


Ironworker shirts. COM

Ironworker Links

For Apprenticeship Information, go to www.nycironworkers.org

Local 46 Job Photos




Audio: Mohawk ironworkers walking High Steel

New York Ironworker Locals

Ironworkers Local Union No. 46
1322 Third Ave.
New York
NY 10021

Ironworkers Local Union No. 12
900 Lark Drive
NY 12207
(518)436-1294 (518)436-6781

Ironworkers Local Union No. 197
25-19 43rd Avenue
Long Island City
NY 11101

Ironworkers Local Union No. 33
154 Humboldt Street
NY 14610

Ironworkers Local Union No. 361
89-19 97th Avenue
Ozone Park
NY 11416
For Apprenticeship Information, go to www.nycironworkers.org

Ironworkers Local Union No. 40
451 Park Avenue South
New York
NY 10016
For Apprenticeship Information, go to www.nycironworkers.org

Ironworkers Local Union No. 417
583 Route 32
NY 12589

Ironworkers Local Union No. 440
801 Varick St.
NY 13502

Ironworkers Local Union No. 455
40-05 Crescent Street
Long Island City
NY 11101

Ironworkers Local Union No. 470

Ironworkers Local Union No. 576

Ironworkers Local Union No. 580
501 West 42nd Street
New York
NY 10036

Ironworkers Local Union No. 6
196 Orchard Park Road
West Seneca
NY 14224


Ironworkers Local Union No. 60
500 West Genesee Street
NY 13204
Alt. Phone: (315)471-3413

Ironworkers Local Union No. 612

Ironworkers Local Union No. 621

Ironworkers Local Union No. 824

Ironworkers Local Union No. 9
Niagara Nine Building
412 39th Street
Niagara Falls
NY 14303
(716)285-5738 (716)285-5739


Awesome photos from Lady Ironworker

Steel Souls








Topping Off

December 23, 2003, 1:01 a.m.
Topping Off
Buildings, campuses, nations.

By Peter Wood

Somewhere between groundbreaking and ribbon cutting comes a little ceremony in the construction of many modern buildings called "topping off." It occurs when the highest structural element of a high-rise is about to be swung into place. Flagpoles, spires, and ornaments don't count. But when the last important beam is cabled to the crane, the workers sign it. And after it is welded into position, a small pine tree is often anchored atop.


A building on my campus was recently topped off with what looks from down below like a midget Christmas tree. One of the beams several stories down echoes Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, "I could have been a contender!" and the workers have left several other I-beam publications for posterity. But the tree is the key symbol and it is not, as many might suppose, a holiday touch. In the high-steel trade, it announces that the construction has reached the sky without loss of life or serious injury. And it is meant to auger well for the future inhabitants of the building.


Actually, the little tree appears to convey different meanings to different people. The folks who topped off the Laboure Center in South Boston explained that it symbolizes the workers' "respect for nature's contribution to building process." When Cincinnati's Freedom Center was topped off, an official noted that "the tree tradition was started by Norwegian ironworkers in 1898." Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network topped off its new construction saying the tree signifies "a job well done." Well, at least a job half done. In Cleveland, celebrants at the South Points Hospital claimed the pine symbolized "new growth."

No doubt there are still other explanations, generally of a positive cast even if they diverge on details. Among us anthropologists, these kinds of explanations are often called "exegetical meanings." They are what people say when they try to explain a custom; and often they miss a lot of the story.

The topping-off ceremony actually predates steel-frame skyscrapers by about 1200 years. The earliest references date from around 700 A.D., when Scandinavians topped off construction of new halls with sheathes of grain for Odin's horse, Slepnir. Odin, supposedly impressed with this consideration for his horse — and with the raucous good cheer of the crowd — bestowed good luck on the future occupants.

The Vikings spread their customs across the portions of the European world that they raided and colonized. Topping-off, however, was modified by some tree-worshipping pagan tribes. Britons and Germans substituted small trees for sheathes of grain, and German tribes made a particular point of using only evergreens. Some traditions also suggest that the Vikings themselves adopted the pine tree as the appropriate touch for a topping off. In any case, the claim that the tradition reached America via immigrant Norwegian iron workers is plausible. But Americans added their own twist to the ceremony, by hoisting an American flag beside the tree.

The ancient origin and long history of the "topping off" ceremony, however, doesn't really explain it. I doubt that many of those modern high-steel construction workers think that Slepnir is going to stop and graze on Douglas fir needles. Odin may be making a comeback with neo-pagans, but he is not big in the building trade.

What the topping-off ceremony is really about is the satisfaction we take in getting the hard part done. A great deal of labor may lie ahead, but in putting that last beam in place, we have pre-figured the whole. All the world can see how far we have reached. The little tree announces not just the workers' pride in their accomplishment, but also high spirits and sheer delight in the event.

And that, in turn, may be the connection with Christmas trees. When European Christians appropriated this old pagan symbol, they ornamented it with dozens of new meanings, perhaps most importantly associating the evergreen with the Gospel's promise of new life. But there is no mistaking that behind any sober explanation of what the tree symbolizes is exuberant joy in the object itself as a glittering rebuttal of the darkness of the year. We are topping something off.

As we top off this year, I will be thinking about the Coalition forces in Iraq and to the people to whom they are trying to bring freedom and responsible civil government. Toppling Saddam's statues in downtown Baghdad topped off the war, but we will be hoisting the beams and welding the joints of a democratic republic for a long time to come. I raise my tree this year in honor of the workers in low steel, the soldiers intrepidly facing roadside bombs and RPGs to bring the rule of law to a damaged nation. I look forward to the day when they can top off that enterprise. Till then: Thank you for your glittering rebuttal of the darkness. We can see it from here.

Peter Wood, a professor of anthropology at Boston University, is the author of Diversity: The Invention of A Concept.


Women In The Unions

A noteworthy event in the labor movement of the early 1900s was the creation of the Women's Trade Union League, to help educate women workers about the advantages of union membership, to support their demands for better working conditions, and to acquaint the public with the serious exploitation of the rising number of women workers, many of them in "home industries" or industrial sweatshops. It was founded by Mary O'Sullivan, a bindery worker who became the first woman organizer employed by the AFL; Jane Addams, the noted social worker and founder of Chicago's Hull House; Mary Kehew, a Boston philanthropist, and women who were officials in the unions of the garment and textile industries. For much of its first century, the labor movement was-in huge majority composed of men. Except in a few occupations clerical work and the garment, textile, retail and hotel industries-the labor force was essentially male. Since World War II, however, women have moved increasingly into new occupations and larger numbers of women have become full-time wage earners. As more and more women went to work, their union membership climbed, passing seven million in 1980. In 1984, two women were serving on the AFL-CIO Executive Council as federation vice presidents. Women also head a major AFL-CIO staff department and a national affiliate, while others hold offices of increasing responsibility in their unions.

1908 Labor Day Parade, float of Women's Trade Union League, New York