Derek Winemiller, Local 315, started working for the Kansas City Apprenticeship in late 2021. For many incoming apprentices, he’s the first person they meet on their journey to becoming a journeyman carpenter.
“My job here at the apprenticeship is to help the apprentices coming aboard to transition into the career. I’m the first guy in the chain,” Winemiller said.
Kansas City Apprenticeship Coordinator Bob Hale said Derek was able to take up the mantle after a previous employee left.
“We were just very fortunate that the timing of Derek’s recovery would allow him to come in and start earning a paycheck again and give him an opportunity to get his insurance back,” Hale said.
Winemiller’s path to working for the apprenticeship wasn’t easy. After being a journeyman carpenter for years, he put himself in harm’s way to intervene in an armed robbery in 2020. In the violent incident, he was shot at least a dozen times and had to be hospitalized. In the process of his recovery, Derek has been wheelchair-bound but he continues to make progress toward his goal of walking again.
Hale said Derek has a unique perspective having previously worked in the field.
“It’s always been a long-term goal of ours to have that first person the (apprentices) meet be a member. Someone who can answer specific questions about what the job and life of a carpenter is like,” Hale said.
Kansas City Regional Director Rocky Kloth said Winemiller has already made an impact on the area and he will continue to do so.
“52,000 [members], that number will grow, and it’s because of people like Derek,” Kloth said.
Derek fully intends to get back to working as a carpenter. However, for now, he’s working with the new generation of union carpenters.
“I mean getting out there, build something, have something tangible you can put your hands on – that’s one of the things I do miss is shaping the skyline of Kansas City,” Winemiller said.