When he was fired because he missed work to attend the birth of his son on New Year’s Day, Lamar Austin unwittingly became a public figure. News of the incident spread on social media after it was reported by newspaper and television stations in New England.
It’s a story that may have a happy ending, however, due in part to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Austin, 30, received several job offers after news of his firing spread, but is applying for a spot in Dover, N.H., IBEW Local 490’s apprenticeship program. He was invited to do so by Local 490 Business Manager Denis R. Beaudoin Sr. Austin lives in nearby Pittsfield, N.H., with his wife and four children, the youngest, Cainan, who will receive the credit for the positive career track of his father after his birth.
“I’ve been waiting for so long for this,” Austin said. “God delivered it to me. Why look for something else?”
Beaudoin said Austin’s plight originally caught his attention because they both live in Pittsfield. He reached out and encouraged him to apply after reading in a follow-up report that Austin wanted to become an electrician.
“This isn’t a freebie,” Beaudoin said. “It’s an actual offer to better himself. A lot of people in life don’t have these opportunities. If they did, they would take advantage of it.
“We offer that,” Beaudoin continued. “That’s the beauty of the IBEW. We offer a way to improve your life.”
Among those improvements for Austin if he’s accepted into the program: a well-paying career, a chance to earn a pension, increased job security and knowing he’ll be able to take time for the birth of a child.
“The IBEW understands family values,” Beaudoin said. “We live it and support them.”
Austin grew up in Newark, N.J., and served in the U.S. Army before settling in New Hampshire because his wife Lindsay is from there. Their son Cainan was born at about 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Earlier that morning, Salerno Protective Services informed him he was out of a job as a security guard for failure to show up for work. Austin, who said he informed the company that his wife was in labor, was within his 90-day probationary period. New Hampshire is an “at-will” employment state, meaning employees can be terminated for little reason and without warning.
But it struck many as unfair and anti-family. One New Hampshire woman set up a GoFundMe account for the family and several businesses made job offers.
Austin said his mother was a union carpenter and reminded him of the importance of unions for working families. He remembered that and he’s always wanted to be an electrician, so Beaudoin’s offer nailed it.
“She always told me that you need some job security,” he said. “As a kid, you don’t quite understand what she’s talking about.”
Austin said he’s good with his hands and a quick learner. He’s talked with Local 490 Training Director Jonathan Mitchell and will officially apply for a spot when he receives his transcript from his New Jersey high school.
“This is part of my job when you see someone saying they want to be an electrician,” Mitchell said. “We reach out to those people and encourage them to come in.”
Both Beaudoin and Mitchell noted Austin has plenty of work ahead. He still must meet the requirements for entry and he’ll have to commit to a five-year apprenticeship program. But they said his military background should work to his advantage.
“We’ve had great experience with military guys before,” Beaudoin said. “They already know you need to be organized. They understand you have to attend classes.”
“It’s been kind of weird for me,” he said. “At one point, I thought no one really cared about anyone else’s struggles. But at this point, God has showed me that people really do care.”
Reprinted with permission from IBEW http://www.ibew.org/