Faith, persistence, ambition, and the generosity of, IBEW 292, Hunt Electric and many friends have changed the life of Calvin Mulumba. More than likely, the management at Hunt Electric is not aware of what a difference they have made in one person’s life and so I wanted to share this story.
I first met Calvin Mulumba about two years ago at a men’s Bible study. A victim of torture from Uganda, fleeing for his life, Calvin sought asylum in the United States leaving his friends and family behind. He had been in the country less than a year and was living with his cousin. During our first meetings all Calvin talked about was becoming an electrician. It doesn’t take long to realize when someone has a single mindedness, bordering on obsession, about a life goal. Little did we all know the obstacles that he would face.
Calvin lived close to the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood, which is supported by the Maplewood Historical Society. To keep busy he started volunteering there. Painting, cleaning bathrooms, he did whatever was asked of him always with a smile. He hiked to the farm to work. He loved to work whether he got paid or not. I do believe, although now working full-time for Hunt Electric, he does have the most volunteer hours at the farm for 2017.
Shortly after we met Calvin faced several roadblocks. First came the threat of homelessness. Calvin’s cousin had a family arriving and would no longer have space for Calvin to stay. While working at the Bruentrup Farm Calvin got to know Bill and Raydelle Bruentrup and they opened their home to him. He has become part of their family. Living in the eastern suburbs presented the next roadblock, that of transportation. For months the Bruentrups and friends provided transportation. Before finding a job it was necessary to apply for and get necessary identification cards and to deal with with HomeLand Security. Eventually Calvin got a job at FedEx on the second shift loading and unloading boxes. The job was challenging. Calvin got his driver’s license and bought a used car with his savings. By this time I felt that wherever Calvin went to work he had a good chance to be successful.
During Calvin’s working at FedEx I mentioned that I worked for the Fair Contracting Foundation of Minnesota (FCF), an organization supported by sixteen labor unions and over a thousand union contractors. I told him I would investigate what it took to get into an apprenticeship program and encouraged him to start visiting union websites. I had been working several years with FCF and had gotten to know the people at IBEW Local 110 in St. Paul and IBEW 292 in Minneapolis. We learned that if there was a demand for new apprentices and if he could find a contractor to give him a job, Calvin could get into a pre-apprenticeship program that could lead to an apprenticeship as an electrician. The next hurdle was trying to find an employer.
Almost two years ago now, I approached my neighbor Chris Anderson, a supervisor for Hunt Electric, about possibly hiring Calvin. Between Chris and his coworker, Kevin Almendinger, Calvin starting the process of filling out applications, taking drug tests, and passing security screenings. Kevin and Chris went out of their way to get this process completed and were very patient. Similarly, Hunt coordinated with the IBEW 292 JATC and Calvin got the appropriate applications completed for the pre-apprenticeship program. Little did we expect Homeland Security to become the next major stumbling block.
It turned out Calvin had two middle names and on one of his IDs from Homeland Security they only included one of his middle names. This discrepancy was a problem and he could not get through the security clearances to work for Hunt until this got cleared up. At this same time, this ID mix up caused another problem and his work permit was not renewed. Therefore, FedEx had to lay him off because of it. Bill Bruentrup spent hours on the phone and writing letters to get the ID corrected. I enlisted the help of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. It took the better part of a year to get the ID corrected! As soon as it got corrected, Calvin went back to work at FedEx while he resumed his pursuit of his pre-apprenticeship through IBEW 292 and Hunt.
Given a year had passed, he had to review and update all of his applications and wait for Hunt to have a job opening for a pre-apprentice. He never lost sight of his goal or lost any of his enthusiasm to become an electrician. Calvin went to work for Hunt Electric in the summer of 2017 at the Minneapolis International Airport. He has been working 6 days a week and has accumulated almost 1,000 hours since he started. There are many thousands of hours ahead for Calvin to complete his apprenticeship, but he is doing well, his immediate supervisors are happy with his work, and he so appreciates everything that has been done for him.
In addition to all of his friends and family, special thanks to the organizations that gave Calvin the opportunity to get into the 292 pre-apprenticeship program:
- Hunt Electric Corporation and Chris Anderson
- IBEW 292 and their staff at the JATC