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Boilermakers union strengthens Bradley family bond

Five of the six kids are Boilermakers. I’m proud of them all.

John Bradley, Local 146

Father and daughters enjoy a chance lunchroom meeting at Trail Teck Operations in Trail, B.C. From l. to r. Naomi Bradley, John Bradley and Leia Bradley.

Through his visible hard work and influence, John Bradley modeled a Boilermaker lifestyle that would become a desirable career path for his children. Bradley, a 43-year Boilermaker with Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta), is pleased that nearly all of his children followed in his footsteps.

“Five of the six kids are Boilermakers. I’m proud of them all,” Bradley says. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. I get to be on jobs with them every once in awhile. I get to watch them develop. I never worry about their security. They have really pleased me, and I can safely say all of my kids would be a benefit on the job.”

Bradley’s time in the trades holds many fond memories, many which stem from the union brothers and sisters he has met along the way and standing up for what progressed the union forward. Supporting women in the trades was one of the advancements he believed in. With two daughters who have followed in his footsteps, he has seen how his involvement directly benefited his family. He explains that while women are more accepted today than before, it makes him proud to see his daughters being a part of the Boilermaker trade.

“I never babied them,” Bradley says. “I’ve pushed them hard, and my girls have done excellent.”

Though his children’s lifestyles may look very different, all their success as Boilermakers is evident. Naomi Bradley, with 12 years at L-146, is described by her family as being a driven and ambitious single mom who has taken her career seriously.

“She is such a good welder and worker,” says her sister, Leia. “Everyone loves to be around her. She’s always the life of the lunchroom, often embarrassing me as big sisters do.”

Naomi says her hard work allows her to provide a secure life for her daughter. She is a believer in the union advantage. She adds that becoming a parent and understanding what it meant to care for her daughter strengthened her and her father’s bond, both on and off the job.

“My dad has been in the union for 40-plus years, and it’s how he supported his family,” Naomi says. “The tipping point for me was when I had a child to be responsible for.”

She advises women interested in the trades not to let motherhood stop them from achieving where they want to be in their careers. Naomi worked until she was seven months pregnant. She describes how she was consistently treated as an equal and received wonderful support from her union brothers and sisters.

Leia Bradley, who has 10 years in the local, lives in Baja, Mexico. It was important to her to be able to live the life she wanted, while also being able to take jobs that provide for her family. She recalls that growing up with her dad, traveling and living in different cities, she was raised to be a “nomad.” When Leia is on layoff, she spends her time at home in the warmer Mexico climate with her husband and son. It’s something else she has in common with her father. John Bradley also spends three months of the year enjoying the Baja and runs an RV and surf camp with Leia.

Working as a Boilermaker, it was crucial for Leia to prove to her union brothers and sisters that she had the skills it would take to become a Boilermaker, without her family name aiding her.

“I worked hard to establish my own name in the Boilermakers,” Leia says. “I didn’t work with family for about seven years. After so many years, I accomplished a great name for myself, and every single person in my family did the same.”

Now Leia has done just that and loves the opportunities she has to work alongside her own blood. “We all consider ourselves brothers and sisters in the trade; and when your actual blood is there beside you, it’s a feeling I can’t quite describe,” she says. “I’m so proud of all my family, and they have pushed me to be the best Boilermaker I can be.”

Taking a different path than his sisters, Jared Bradley, with 18 years at L-146, is now the weld centre coordinator and welding examiner/instructor at the local. Jared knew from the start that traveling wasn’t for him. His opportunity to start working with the local began by helping a few nights a week to assist with welding courses. He wanted a job where he could be home every night with his family. When the previous coordinator retired, Jared applied for the job.

Though Jared doesn’t work on jobsites with his father or sisters anymore, that doesn’t stop them from running into each other from time to time. When his father or sisters need a weld test before a job, Jared is the one to test them. They also have spent time together standing up for union rights. As a family, the Bradley’s walked the CESSCO picket line together.  

Jared credits his father as a bit of a recruiter within their family. He says, “He brought me into Boilermakers, my sisters, my step-brothers and I believe some cousins.” Step-brothers Jarrod Schafers and Alexander Schafers are Boilermakers too. Jarrod has six years with L-146, and Alexander is a first year welding apprentice with the local.

The family are proud Boilermakers. Each member has his or her own experience, story and path, but all agree that the Boilermaker trade has made their family stronger. Leia perhaps says it best: “I don’t think the Boilermakers would be the same if I didn’t have her [Naomi] or any of my family to share it with. It’s bonded us in a way that other families don’t get to bond.”