Phillip Otto has been an IBEW Local 40 member for just over three years. He became an electrician and joined Local 40 to better provide for his wife and three daughters.
Otto recently completed a job as a foreman for Morrow-Meadows on the new Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood. He took some time out to talk about what union membership means to him and what it was like to work on one of the hottest theme park attractions in the world.
How did you get into the electrical field?
I got into electrical about nine, 10 years ago when I found that I was having my first daughter. I was working in a warehouse, and I realized this is not going to cut it. So, I joined this electrical program, and I started working with a friend of mine for an electrical company.
You were working non-union when you started?
Yes, I worked non-union for about seven years. Three of my friends all ended up joining IBEW 40. Maybe a year later, I joined the union. I just took a leap of faith, and I just came on board. Ever since then, I’ve had no regrets. Ever since the day I joined the union, it changed my life completely. Thanks to the union I was able to purchase a house.
What are some of the other benefits of being part of IBEW 40?
Knowing that it’s pretty much like family. You have many brothers and sisters around you, and everybody’s out for the same goal. Nobody’s trying to one-up somebody. Everybody’s here to better ourselves, to better our families. It’s great to have everybody on the same page as you.
What did you know about unions before you joined?
I always heard a lot of negativity about it. Because I’ve worked in the non-union world, they’re always giving negative thoughts (toward unions).
Any advice for anybody who’s thinking about joining a union?
It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s a great way to get ahead in life. Don’t be scared. Just make the jump because I know a lot of guys out there, they get comfortable. So, the guys that get comfortable out there, I would advise, “Just take the job and go for it.” As long as you have a good work ethic and you work consistently, then you’re fine.
What was working on Super Nintendo World like for you?
I gained a lot of experience there. That job was a little bit different from what I was used to doing. There were just so many different systems, so much different stuff involved in building rides and queues. It was just a huge learning experience there.
What were some of the major differences?
I’ve worked in non-union, so what I was used to was commercial buildings, hotels. We did high rises as well. So, going into this ride we were in a smaller footprint, and it was just way more difficult. There were so many more systems involved, and it was a lot more detailed.
What were some challenges about the job?
The challenge was having to learn so many different systems that are involved in the rides and the queues, and then having to explain that to the crew I had working with me.
Is there anything about your work at Nintendo World you’re particularly proud of?
It’s knowing that when someone walks through those queues to get onto those ride that I was involved in every one of those systems. So, every time a person walks through the queues, it’s like, “Hey, that’s part of me there.”
Did you get a chance to ride the rides?
They had a contractor’s day for us. So, we got to bring our family. I got to bring my three daughters, and it was fun. Everybody had a blast.
By Robert Fulton