Ironworker Local 516 member helped build a bridge in Panama

Patrick Montgomery (right), a member of Ironworkers Shopmen’s Local 516, workers with a villager from El Macho, Panama, building a pedestrian bridge across a river that prohibits travel when it rains.

Patrick Montgomery, an apprentice with Ironworkers Shopmen’s Local 516 employed at Fought & Company, volunteered to travel to El Macho, Panama, March 16-30, to help build a pedestrian bridge under a program organized by Bridges to Prosperity. B2P is a U.S. nonprofit that partners with local governments around the world to connect impoverished rural populations with urban facilities and resources.

Montgomery was part of a 9-person team that spent two weeks erecting a suspension bridge so people and animals in the area could cross the river during rainy season and have safe, year-round access to education, health care, and markets. They slept in tents and worked with villagers who were willing to help. Montgomery was the only tradesperson in the group. The others were department of transportation engineers.

Montgomery brought a box of union T-shirts with him to give to villagers who helped build the footbridge.

“On the first day, two villagers showed up to help, and I gave them each a T-shirt,” he said. “The next day, 25 villagers showed up. I gave away all my T-shirts.”

Montgomery, a 15-year member of Local 516, recently completed a mechanic apprenticeship. A mechanic is Fought’s version of a fitter or assembler and is the highest achievable level as a fabricator. Montgomery’s job is to fabricate high rise components and bridge girders at the company’s facility in Clackamas, then complete assembly checks before tearing it down for shipment.

“I just love what I do,”  Montgomery told the Labor Press.

“Patrick takes tremendous pride in his work ethic and was very excited, and grateful for the Bridges to Prosperity opportunity,” said Fought president Steve Fugate. “He was a great ambassador for the industry.”

Montgomery called the experience “very rewarding,” and  hopes his story will generate more interest among signatory shops with Local 516.

“I came back totally humbled. We don’t know how good we have it here,” he said. “If I get asked to do it again, I’ll go in a heartbeat.”

Fought’s and Montgomery’s participation in the Bridges to Prosperity program spurred Phil Casciato, business manager of Local 516, to nominate them both for Labor Appreciation and Recognition Night awards.

This was Fought’s first venture with B2P, but Fugate says it won’t be their last. “The value of what these bridges bring to these communities is unmeasurable,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Since its founding in 2001, Bridges to Prosperity has connected nearly 1 million people, and built over 250 footbridges, and expanded to 18 countries across Southeast Asia, Africa and Central and South America.

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