Reflections on the Iron Worker’s Reception

On August 14, I sponsored an “Iron Workers Reception” at a local Redwood City restaurant. The purpose was to celebrate what these aerial daredevils do to help shape the future of our city through photography, interviews, and video. 



It was a magical evening. The iron workers were thrilled to have their work and lives celebrated. We invited many of our friends and clients who were enthralled with the stories. 


 Iron Workers of Crossing/900


Iron Workers Slide Show


I began the evening with a quote from Bill Spalding:

“Hats off to those guys in the trades, but where are their replacements coming from? We do not teach vocational
in schools anymore and a computer sure as hell won’t bolt metal together hundreds of feet in the air…then the welders have to go up and weld it all together. Amazing and most of us take it for granted. “

The night of August 14, we did NOT take it for granted. Here is a summary of the evening:


Stories from the Iron Workers Reception, August 14, 2014.



Rene’s story

Five weeks ago, an incoming beam broke both the tibia and fibula in Rene’s leg. After weeks in the hospital he is finally up on crutches. 


When he came into the reception, the cheering could be heard for blocks



Asked of an iron worker:

Q: What is the best part of this job?

A: Watching the building go up.

Q: What is the worst part?

A: The funerals 




“I thought I knew what pride was until I started working iron. We’re all thrill seekers, we love adrenalin, and the payoff is awesome. I will be dead and gone but that building will still be there. It’s a lot of pride.”

– Jose Hernandez   


“I’m really high-stung. If I sit around doin’ nothin’ then I get in trouble. Doin’ this job, I work my ass off and I get myself so tired and wore out that I don’t have the energy to go out and get in trouble anymore.”

– Tim Horrisburger  


“It’s a simple equation: if we don’t get the job done and don’t make money for the bosses, we lose the union contract. If they make money, we stay employed.”

Larry Lippert 


“I have two boys. I hope the best for them. I don’t want them to do this. I don’t want to lose a son to this. They need to go to college.

– Jose Hernandez


“We all come from different walks of life, but on the job, we’re all one. The main objective is to get the job done with everyone going home safe.”

– Tim Horrisburger


“Seeing people fall is the worst. When they start to fall, time slows down. They are looking right at you. You want to reach out and grab them, but you can’t. The memory stays with you.”

– Jose Hernandez



Tattoo Contest

Mary wanted a contest for who had the most tattoos. Would have been a tough decision. Here Julio Paredos shows her his left arm. Note the word “Brotherhood.” It is very much a part of the iron workers’ culture. BTW, the iron workers were delighted when I took off my shirt to show them my “Let ‘er Rip” tattoo. 


3 thoughts on “Reflections on the Iron Worker’s Reception

  1. Kevin Towns says:

    Beyond the occasional "topping-out party", in my 41+ years of being in the steel business,I’ve never seen Iron Workers celebrated and appreciated in this way. I never cease to be amazed by these men and I’m proud to be associated with them. My hat’s off to you Rick Gilbert! Job well done!

  2. Bill Spaulding says:

    I was amazed you quoted me. And you are spot on. Without the trades who is going to build your air conditioned buildings for your comfort on the job, and create all the other comforts we have? These guys work in the heat and cold and most love what they do.

    As you know, I was "college prep" at Berkeley High, but you may not also know I organized my day so I could take a 4 hour a day vocational Machine Shop class which probably taught me as much as all the Physics, Chemistry Trig etc courses in the prep program. You see, I was the A student in the so called "bonehead" class and did not fit in. To survive, I developed a self depreciating humor that has served me well over the years. I drove a desk for 45 years and made a good living doing it but really wanted to work with my hands. I have more respect for the cabinet maker who can make the perfect miter seam or the welder laying down a "stack of nickles" than, any politician, nearly any lawyer, most academia—well you get the idea. Our schools suck and we no longer value the trades so the kids who should be entering the trades have to suffer through a high school that is not really geared to their development and then go to a "trade school" to learn what they could have learned in High School. The result is the American kids get bored and drop out and into trouble so we have to import people with skills to do the jobs Americans should be doing.

    Great job Rick and sorry I could not be there but we just concluded the busiest Hot Rod week of the year with the Goodguys Nationals ending yesterday. The past two weeks have been prep and execution…

  3. Hal Anjo says:

    Enjoyed the program very much. As the son of a working class hero, it was heartening and fun to connect with these guys. I have worked in corporate and blue collar settings. There is an honesty and directness with these guys. My experience has been the you can always plan on getting stabbed in the back in many corporate environments but the in-your-face style of most blue collar environments may create conflict but it is almost always up-front conflict. Kudos to you Rick for introducing us to a world that many have not seen nor appreciated. Hal

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