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Carpenters Persevere In Camping Out For Union Training, Better Life

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hundreds of carpenters persisted in their long wait on line Sunday, in hopes of getting a chance to join the local union and take part in a training program.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported, the line outside the New York City District Council of Carpenters union, at 395 Hudson St. in the West Village, already stretched a few city blocks Sunday night and was still growing.

The tough-as-nails carpenters were determined to put in the time and hammer out a better life, CBS 2's Dave Carlin reported.

Some arrived Saturday morning, or even earlier. By Sunday afternoon, some needed to catch up on sleep, while others -- such as Jermaine Belliard of the Bronx and his friends – passed the time relaxing in comfort.

He had "somewhat of like an air mattress but, you know, (it's) a chair. Comfortable; the only way to go."

But Beillard and the other job seekers were more than happy to deal with a little discomfort.

"Tonight's the last night -- just wait it out 'til the morning," said Bodhi O'Neil of Copiague as he sat with two pillows. "I've been more comfortable."

"I'm ready to learn," added Carmello Rodriguez of the Bronx.

They were among hundreds camped out along three blocks of Hudson Street, hoping to get one of the 750 coveted applications for a spot with the Competitive Apprenticeship Program with the union.

The process happens just once every two years.

Jahkeem Ashton of Staten Island said a slot in the program would mean "more money, more options."

Some had a lot riding on whether they got into the program.

"This is my life. This is my future," Billy from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn told WCBS 880's Jim Smith on Saturday. "If it's not this, I don't know what I'm going to do."

And all of the applicants have decided it is worth a long wait. The applications will not be handed out until 9 a.m. Monday.

James Kavanagh and his brother-in-law, Nicholas Foreman, arrived outside the building at 2 p.m. last Monday. They were the first two in line, and like all the others who have been in line for days, they have been rough it.

"Getting caught in the rain for whole days was pretty bad, then freezing at night from the rain -- but really, the bathrooms," said Kavanagh, of the Orange County town of Monroe.

"It's been rough with hygiene, brushing your teeth in the street, and I miss my family," added Gina Giuliano of Easton, Penn. "But you know, these guys have been really good to me -- gentlemen to the tee."

The downside to the whole process is that whether an applicant is first in line or last -- even he or she does get an application -- is no guarantee of an interview. But they said it is worth the chance.

The pot of gold at the end of that rainbow is getting that interview," said Foreman, of Brownsville, Brooklyn.

And even with rain in the forecast, the applicants said they are prepared and sticking it out.

"I don't care if it snows. I'm here," Ashton said. "I love it. Let it rain. "

"Got to get that union job," added Kavanagh. "It's worth it."

Of the applications that will be given out Monday morning, 500 will be for carpenters. The remaining 250 will be for dock builders and floor installers.

Those who get the jobs will earn $20 an hour, just for starters. And lots of union construction contracts are on the horizon, all making for sweet dreams even in the uncomfortable waiting period.

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