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Boilermaker’s energy for life fuels enthusiasm for his craft

Adel Elseri speaks to attendees at the Boilermaker’s 34th MOST National Tripartite meeting as the “ambassador of showing up” about the long-term importance of worker reliability and excellence.

TALKING TO ADEL ELSERI is like being on a carnival ride—he’s full of delight and laughter, and it’s hard to keep up with his excitement. Elseri, Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta), remembers vividly the day over 15 years ago in high school when he announced to his father, Ali Elseri, that he wanted to be a union Boilermaker “just like him.” After all, walking in his father’s footsteps was something the younger Elseri wanted from the time he was a little boy watching his dad go off to work.

“Adel is my youngest,” says Adel Elseri. “He always wanted to be like me, and he used to wear my welding beanies all the time and draw a moustache on his face to look like me.

“When he decided to become a Boilermaker, I told him, ‘Son, if that’s the case, you give an honest day’s work every day. If you party with the big boys at night, you show up with the men in the morning. And never let your brothers and sisters down, because all you have is each other to lean on.’”

And that’s just what Adel Elseri has done. He enrolled in a program that allowed students to go to school a half day and work at a trade the other half. Encouraged by his father and his father’s fellow Boilermakers, Elseri started his apprenticeship and joined the Boilermakers union at L-146 seven months later.

“Becoming a Boilermaker is the best life decision I ever made,” Elseri declares. “I was ecstatic when I became an apprentice and knew that I was on my way to a lifetime career. I was ready for the real world, and the Boilermakers made me feel right at home.”

He particularly remembers a moment as an apprentice that filled him with pride. “We were on a job and they needed a journeyman to work in a tiny vertical vessel, but everyone was too big and husky, except me,” he recalls. “So, the foreman looked around, pointed at me and said, ‘Hey Elseri, you’re a sharp little guy, can you do the job?’ And I said, ‘Yes sir!’ thrilled that I was trusted to do a journeyman’s work in front of all my brothers. It was a defining moment for me.”

Another defining moment for Elseri was when he appeared on season two of "Big Brother Canada" in 2014. He auditioned on a whim and a challenge by a colleague’s wife. When called in for a second round of auditions, he noticed there were 24 names typed on the call-back sheet and his was handwritten at the very bottom. “Talk about a last-minute addition!” he says with a laugh.

During the middle of the season, Elseri was chosen as Canada’s Favorite Player—only to be voted out nine days before the season finale. “I’d never seen "Big Brother Canada" before I tried out for it, and it ended up being the most mentally challenging 64 days of my life,” he says, adding that he has no regrets about not winning and was thrilled he’d been able to participate.

The Boilermakers put Elseri’s reality-TV experience to work, but for a more serious topic. He is featured in a compelling new video that examines the negative effects of no-show absenteeism on employers, contractors, Boilermakers and, indeed, the reputation of the entire union.

In the unscripted film, commissioned by the Canadian Boilermakers and produced by Wide Awake Films, Elseri interviews his peers, seasoned Boilermakers and contractors in honest discussions about the reasons for and ramifications of absenteeism.

“When I watched Adel in the video and he told me he spoke about it at the Boilermaker’s [34th] MOST [National Tripartite] meeting, I couldn’t believe my son was representing our family and union like that,” says Ali Elseri. “I couldn’t be prouder of my son and what he’s accomplished.”

Not ruling out another stint in showbiz, Elseri is settled with his wife Abby (whose father was a pipefitter) and two young sons Idris and Younis, in Alberta. He works at the NOVA Chemical Joffre facility about 90 minutes from their home.

“Boilermakers are my family,” he says. “I wake up. I lace up my boots. I put in a hard day’s work and make a good living. I wear my [Boilermaker] patch proudly. I’m a Boilermaker ‘til the day I die, and I thank my dad for that.”