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Ironworkers put the pieces together

November 28, 2004 Reposted from the Oakland Tribune
  By Alec Rosenberg

After 33 years as an ironworker, Warren Moldovan's hands are weathered and his back is bad, but his eyes are steely and his determination is as strong as ever.

Moldovan wakes for work at 2:30 a.m., leaves his Oakley home by 3 a.m. and stays at his Oakland job site until 7 p.m. As superintendent for Harris Salinas Rebar, Moldovan, 52, oversees the ironworkers' crew on the Bay Bridge skyway project.

"I like doing it. It's interesting. I want to be here," Moldovan said. "I'm not home very often. This is my life."

Moldovan works six days a week -- it's only an 8-hour shift on Saturdays. With his Nextel mobile phone by his side, he makes sure that 30,000 tons of steel reinforcing bar, or rebar, gets put together properly. The giant rebar cages will help strengthen each of the skyway's 28 piers.

Moldovan has worked on a lot of bridges but never one like this. It's a four-year project that takes lots of organization, including daily safety meetings.

"You've got to know what you're doing every second," he said.

The work, a joint venture with Bay Area Reinforcing, is tough but repetitive.

"It's just like a Tinker Toy set. You're putting it together piece by piece," Moldovan said. "It's like we say, 'We build the world a bar at a time.'"

Moldovan was born in Oakland and grew up in Pleasant Hill. He worked in high school as a cook, then became an ironworker, following in his father-in-law's footsteps.

Ironworking has stayed in the family. Moldovan's son Shane is an ironworker foreman on the skyway project while son Kory has worked as an apprentice.

"I see them more at work than I did when they were growing up," he said.

On a high-profile project such as the Bay Bridge, "everybody is watching," Moldovan said. "I'm not out here to be a movie star. I'm out here to do the job and go on to the next one."

Off the job, Moldovan likes to fish, hunt, ski and ride dirt bikes and motorcycles. It helps him relax and stay revved up for work.

"It's a high-risk job. Most guys are in the air climbing something," Moldovan said. "I don't think the average population -- those not involved in construction -- understand how hard construction workers work and what kind of dangerous job they have. You basically put yourself on the line every day."

Alec Rosenberg can be reached at (510) 208-6445 or [email protected].

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