Pile drivers, or Pilebutts as they are better known, perform foundation work on large-scale construction projects such as piers, wharves, dry docks, breakwaters, underwater pipelines, bridges, highways, skyscrapers, and parking lots. Pilebutts are inheritors of an ancient craft. Working on land and underwater, they perform one of the most dangerous jobs in heavy construction.
Whether constructing, maintaining, or demolishing structures, Pilebutts' work is strenuous and dangerous. It is performed on a variety of maritime and shore-side locations: barges, work floats, tugboats, wharves, piers, pontoons, and foundation excavations, often during the early stages of construction when the sites can be unprepared, uneven, and ungraded.
Pilebutts load/unload their broad-gauge lumber construction forms and piling up to eighty or more feet in length. They manhandle, rig, erect, and drive wooden, steel, and cement pile. They construct, move, set, and scale all forms and shapes used in the laying of cast-in-place structures as well as construct, climb, and demolish wooden and metal falsework. They shore and brace any excavations undertaken in connection with their work, and during demolition they perform all deconstruction with cutting torches, jackhammers, and power saws, as well as rigging and loading work associated with the removal of debris.
This video was produced by the Pile Drivers, Divers, Bridge, Wharf and Dock Builders Local Union Number 34, Oakland, California, with advice from folklorist Archie Green.