Kandice Rogers is draftsman/sketcher in Long Island, New York. She’s a member of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), Local 28.
How long have you been a draftsman/sketcher and what got you into the industry?
I’ve been in the trades for 11 years and I’ve been drafting for almost seven years. When I graduated college with an architect degree, we were in the Great Recession and there were no jobs. My best friend’s dad, who’s a union member, suggested that I apply for an apprenticeship program, especially because they were actively recruiting women. I ended up doing a pre-apprenticeship program for about three months and then went into the apprenticeship program for five years. You got to touch every aspect of the trade, so I started by installing ducts. Eventually, I got into the sketching department, where I’ve been ever since.
Why do you think it’s important for unions to engage on the climate crisis?
Buildings are the places we retreat to when there’s extreme weather and it’s up to us, the people that build these buildings, to make them safe. As the climate crisis continues to worsen, it’ll be our job to make sure that people can continue to live in the spaces they want to live in.
Have you noticed any ways in which your job sites have struggled to handle the climate crisis? What effect has that had on you and your coworkers?
We already work in the extremes. When I was installing ducts, I ended up in the hospital because of heat that caused severe dehydration. That was years ago and the conditions are getting worse. I definitely see a future where workers can’t work on a project because it’s just too hot or cold and we have to consider their well-being.
Why is being a union member important to you?
Before coming into this work, I had no idea what it meant being union. Now, I can’t imagine a life without being a union member. Being a union member has allowed me to have job security. I was able to buy a home, start a family, and have a comfortable life because I’m a union member. If I had known about [apprenticeships] in high school, I would have come straight here, but I’m just glad I’m here now.
Unions in New York are organizing to make public schools safer, healthier, and carbon-free by upgrading HVAC systems. Can you talk about why these upgrades are vital for students, school workers, and local residents?
Indoor air quality is very important. We’ve especially learned that since the start of the pandemic. There’s been a big push to get fresh air. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there was no fresh air in buildings, and people were getting sick constantly because they were just recycling the same air. We know better now. Buildings, just like people, need to breathe fresh air.
We have new technology now, things like Heat Recovery Systems, that help recycle the air and reduce the energy use of these HVAC systems. We can reduce the spread of Covid and other airborne viruses, lower the carbon footprint of these buildings, and reduce energy costs all at the same time now. We’ll need HVAC to survive whatever changes are happening to our climate. Ultimately, as a mom, I want my son to be able to go to places like school without getting sick.
We need clean air just as much as we need clean water.