O.K. I saw the add back in 2008, it said something like Masons Wanted, $18-$24 per hour. Will Train. This was an add, in the L.A. Times, in the Employment section. Not in the Education section. I called the number, the young woman told me to come in early, the next morning, for an interview. I was now suspicious because it was seeming too easy, she did not ask me even one question, just invited me to the interview immediately. (Once some friends dragged me to an Amway brainwashing session and I got that gut feeling this was going to be similar. The Amway thing was horrible, but I escaped without joining them.)
I arrived at their office located on Cerise Ave. in Hawthorne, CA, early the next morning. I spoke to the young woman at the front desk. She said the orientation would start at 8 A.M., I think it was. Now, that gut feeling was really strong. Too easy, plus I was a cab driver for Bell Cab in the past. Bell Cab, ironically, also has their taxicab franchise office located very nearby, on another section of Cerise Ave., also in Hawthorne. Their office looks very similar to this Hawthorne, Masonry Connection Office and has an eerily similar feel. Working as an independent contractor/driver, with Bell Cab, was not very rewarding in many ways, especially financially, in my opinion.
About four other men showed up, as well, for their, "interview." 2 or 3 of them were wearing work clothes/boots and looked like they were hoping this was one of those rare occurances where they would be hired on the spot and be needed to start working right then, after filling out the W-4, for tax purposes. I was dressed in jeans and tennis shoes and was hoping I would be needed to haul around stuff and get construction laborer type pay. The last guy was dressed nicely, ready for his interview, and also looked very eager to start work right away.
We all were waiting in the lobby, several of the others looked irritated, thinking we were each others competition for limited jobs. I had my doubts. In the back room, we then heard a loud booming voice yelling, you better not F-Word it up this time, followed by a incredibly rude and vulgar, "pep talk." Then we saw the booming voice man come out. He was a large Russian/ or light skinned Middle Eastern area looking man about 50-55 years old. He was very tall and had a large build. Also, the man he was yelling at, a shorter than average, very professional looking, darker skinned, Middle Eastern looking man in his early twenties came out. This shorter man told us to follow him into the meeting room for our group interview. We sat down in chairs in front of applications. We filled out these lame pointless applications that did not ask anything a normal employer would want to inquire into about a possible new hire. It was just a bunch of nonsense. This young and intelligent/professional seeming, and kind of polite Middle Eastern man asked us a few questions, then told us we were all hired.
He would take no questions. He showed us a lame video. This was just to waste our time. Then he began talking, he got to the part about how he would need us to pay all kinds of money to get started and sign some weird contract promising to pay someone all kinds of money. He explained how we would have to come to Masonry Connection almost everyday and then work on the side to pay our tuition, it was up to us, we just had to pay. We could borrow money from our parents or friends.
He went on to explain that he knows that will difficult for some of us. That is why they teamed up with some charitable organization, called some B.S., that would loan us $3, 000 that we will get immediately, but it will not really be immediately, it might take 3 weeks or it might take 8 weeks, or maybe longer, but we will get it immediately. I know that makes sense, doesn't it. The sad thing is, this made about 3 of the, "applicants, " eyes light up with hope. He went on to sort of explain the interest rate and if I remember right, it would cost about $10, 000 to become an entry level mason but they encourage us to sign the contract to become a master mason right away, which would cost 20, 000 something dollars and how worthwhile it would be and how much masons make and who would want to just stop at entry level and how much lower entry level wages are.
Just for kicks and to possibly save some of the others, I asked him what connections with construction companies this school had to help us find jobs as masons during and after training. He explained none and it was up to us to complete this easy task on our own. I asked him for stats on how many students who enter or complete the course find jobs as masons. He said he had none of these stats. Now it was time to leave. He tried so hard to stop me. Don't you want to Make good money? It is so foolish to pass up an oppurtunity to make $18-$24 dollars an hour. Some people just aren't smart. A 40-45 year old, African American gentleman exited as well, at this time. I actually felt sorry for the small guy being left with the large madman. This possibly was just another psychological game they were playing. At least, for sure, the big guy knows no one wants to walk out on the little guy because he will suffer his wrath for losing students. The little guy, probably, is not in on it, he is being somewhat used also.
After exiting the office, I saw that the bay doors were now open and school was in session. The large Russian/Middle Eastern man was yelling at the, "students, " and storming around giving them orders. The, "students, " were mostly young men 20 to 25 years old and minorities or recent immigrants. Mostly Asian or Latino, there were a few Middle Eastern looking, some Russian type white people, I think some Africans, a few African Americans and a few White Americans. They all looked miserable, not one smile out of about 35 people who had just arrived at, "school, " that morning. They seemed to be pointlessly doing nonsense with cinder blocks. The small garages were very crowded and I didn't notice any sophisticated equipment of any kind. All I noticed was cinder blocks and these guys moving them around and stacking them.
I talked to the African American guy who exited when I did.We were both disgusted and worried for the 3 or so who remained and might sign the contracts. We were very upset about our time being wasted, especially when we were broke and could have spent this time and gas money/ bus money possibly getting closer to finding a real job. Masonry Connection knows the desperation of the people often answering these adds and preys upon on. They need $3, 000 so bad, they enslave themselves for probably several years to whatever this nonsense is. Or, they end up getting bailed out by a more stable friend or relative and enriching these ### for nothing.
Masonry Connection seems like that weird place from the movie, "Sucker Punch." They do to men what that weird place does to women. It's like they're pimping these young men, basically. Please be careful everyone. Look before you leap. They didn't get me for one cent, so it's not that. When I was walking out, I literally felt like I would pass out or throw up, the place makes me sick. It is obvious it wastes part of young peoples youth and steals from them and may cause some of them problems for their whole life, I fear. Probably, it also leads to criminal activity to pay off these debts. These young men could be using their youth to benefit themselves, their families, and society.
If you want to learn a construction trade, I would recommend you apprentice with a master mason or electrician or etc. Find one who will pay you as their assistant while you train, go to the Union Office, for your skill, and take their tests and fill out their paperwork and get your Master So and So title, while getting paid. Or go to a community college. In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Community College Occupational Training Campus looks like it has a great construction technology course. It looks like they actually build houses there as training. It will be so much better and so much cheaper than, I'm sure, Masonry Connection would be. There are community colleges all over the country and real financial aid, available for you, if you need it. The only purpose for Masonry Connection's existence is to give whoever runs it money, for who know what, and to have a bunch of young people, who feel indebted to them, available to be used, to do who knows what.