On May 1st, we recognize International Workers Day, also known as May Day, to honor workers and the fight for worker’s rights throughout history. May 1st was chosen to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket Square Massacre in Chicago where, what began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour workday, ended in several dead, dozens of wounded, and an aftermath of social unrest.
This fight continues. The month of May marks the anniversary of a heinous crime of hate on a jobsite in downtown Portland where Oregon Tradeswomen graduate and UA Local 290 member Leslie Cotton found a noose on job-site where she was working as an apprentice plumber. Our industry and our community were outraged, and rightfully so, that this blatant act of hate was put on display for all to see, and to serve as a threat to some of the workers on that jobsite.
Since that awful day, our industry and our community have come together to work to put an end to jobsite harassment, collectively working to make construction jobsites safe from hate.
This week, the House Judiciary Committee of the Oregon Legislature is taking up SB 398, which passed the Senate in March. If it passes in the House, the bill would make it a crime to display a noose. There is much more work to do.
While the construction industry provides excellent careers pathways, family-supporting wages, and benefits such as healthcare and pensions, it also has a long history of harassment, hazing, bullying, and discrimination. This unacceptable behavior is most often directed at women and people of color, and for too long, this hostile culture has been permitted to continue.
Oregon Tradeswomen, along with many other industry stakeholders, have long spoken out against discrimination and hate on jobsites and remain committed to changing toxic jobsite culture. Through our participation in the Safe from Hate Alliance, the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity (MAWE), and in implementing a jobsite culture program called RISE Up (Respect, Inclusion, Safety and Equity), Oregon Tradeswomen is pushing for long-overdue, needed changes to make workplaces safe for all workers.
Our guiding voice for jobsite culture change is the Tradesworker Equity Council (TEC). The TEC is comprised of a diverse group of committed tradesworkers who are part of the Safe from Hate Alliance Steering Committee. Leslie Cotton, the tradesworker who found the noose on their jobsite last May, is a member of this council. She, along with the other Council members and the many tradesworkers in our industry, are the unsung champions in this work. They show up every day not only to do the heavy and hard work of construction, but the equally difficult work of fighting for worker justice and equity.
Oregon Tradeswomen is immensely grateful to the members of the TEC who are the true heroes of this work. Their candor, courage, and tenacity is helping make our industry safe and respectful for all workers.
Thank you for showing up, speaking out and standing up. We are now, and always, humbled, inspired and honored to work alongside you in fighting for justice and equity.
Mary Ann Adkins-Bahena, IUOE Local 701
Janett Arellano, UA Local 290
Leslie Cotton, UA Local 290
Jessica Hendrickson, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 36
Nickeia Hunter, PNW Carpenters Local 1503
Warren T Hunter Jr., UA Local 290
Miranda Jenniches, IUOE Local 701
Jelani McRae, IBEW Local 48
Alejandra Prado, PNW Carpenters Local 1503
Being a Mom and a Tradeswoman have more in common than you might think: both jobs are hard work and require patience and commitment.
A construction job site can be a messy place where you have to stay focused even though you’re surrounded by loud noises and distractions. Being a parent means being responsible for showing up on time for appointments, or adjusting to early mornings, similar to the schedule of a construction worker. Raising a child also requires constant attention – which is also a necessary skill when working on a jobsite. Without attention to the details, safety concerns arise and mistakes are made, costing crucial time and money for the project.
Beyond the shared skillsets of working in the trades and being a Mom, the benefits offered by construction careers are just what you need to support a family. Tradesworkers earn high wages, have insurance, retirement plans, pensions, and other benefits – resources that make having a family a little bit easier.
Anjanet “AJ” Banuelos Bolanos, Oregon Tradeswomen graduate, Field Representative at LiUNA Local 737, and mother of three shared with us, “The most extraordinary moment for me was when I closed on my first home by myself. I was only in the union for 3.5 years. No cosigner, no spouse, just my name on the mortgage. I went from sharing a bunk bed with my three kids in my mom’s spare bedroom to homeownership.”
Kara McCrossen, another Oregon Tradeswomen graduate and Ironworker mom shared with us: “The best thing about being a tradeswoman mom is… I’m providing a quality life for my boys and teaching them to appreciate strong women.”
Ultimately, these two jobs are hard work, but the foundation of being a successful tradesperson or mom is love. When things go wrong or you are just exhausted from a long day, love keeps you going and makes the hard days worth it. Beyond the challenges, being a Mom and a Tradeswoman is empowering, exhilarating, and provides a sense of accomplishment from seeing the awesome results of your hard work – whether it’s the bridge you helped build or the child you’re raising.
To all the tradeswoman moms out there, know that you are a superhero. To all the tradeswomen who want to be moms or moms who want to start a career in the trades, know that you can do both. Just remember not to give up on your dreams, and know that Oregon Tradeswomen has your back!
Happy Mothers Day!
Thanks to OPB for illuminating some of the long-standing and problematic requirements creating unnecessary barriers for minority, disadvantaged, emerging, veteran, and women owned firms when competing for public contracts. These unfair practices continue to be an obstacle to equitable public contracting, and ultimately, a shared prosperity model.
Thank you to Maurice Rahming, president of O’Neill Electric, for the reminder that this is a decades old conversation – and it’s time to set proven, evidence-based policies in place which increase opportunities, access, and true economic inclusion for those firms.
In 2020, Portland awarded over $200 million for ‘goods and services’, yet businesses owned by people of color only received a tiny sliver of these annual public dollars expended by the city – ranging from a mere.8% to 3% over the last five years. These structural inequities are the reason Oregon Tradeswomen participates in industry coalitions such as the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity (MAWE) and other policy efforts – where together, we can make true changes for economic equity. Our collective advocacy work helps advance sound public policy, such as Community Benefits Agreements, to ensure public investments make a difference by reaching underserved workforce, including women, BIPOC, and minority-owned firms.
It’s time to invest in equity Portland!
Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN) is the largest annual gathering of tradeswomen from all around the world to connect, network, and be inspired to take the next steps in their careers and in their Unions.
The 2021 event happens October 1 – 3 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The North American Building Trades Union will make an official announcement in July about how TWBN will happen this year – in person or online.
Regardless of whether TWBN is virtual or in person, don’t hesitate to begin discussions with your local leaders about participating in the conference! Here are links to important resources to help in the process:
Ruby grew up in Boulder Colorado and has been around carpentry most of her life. Her Dad is a finish carpenter, but until recently, she never thought about it as an option for herself.
Ruby moved to Portland in 2010 for college – taking a year to establish residency. After more than 7 years in and out of college and working full time, being poor, broke, and stressed out, Ruby came to a turning point.
She was working in the lumber department of Home Depot, the first woman to work there, and struggling to juggle the demands of a full time job and going to school full time and studying. One afternoon, a customer noticed Ruby’s hard work and hustle. The customer said, “Hey, you work really hard and we need people like you in the trades. My union sponsors this organization, Oregon Tradeswomen. You should check them out.”
Ruby looked into our programs and the timing was perfect. After applying and getting accepted into Oregon Tradeswomen’s Summer 2018 Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), she was laid off from her job in the lumber yard, but pursued our training program anyway. “It was an incredible struggle at that time. I lost my health insurance, and my ability to access needed care and medication. I was in a dysfunctional housing situation, too. It was a really huge milestone for me to graduate. My whole family was there at graduation which was really meaningful for me, and the whole experience has truly been life changing.”
Wanting to go into the Ironworkers apprenticeship, Ruby put in her application and went to work at Vigor as a temporary employee. It wasn’t long before she heard back from the Ironworkers. She was accepted, went through orientation and started out as a rod buster. “It was the most incredibly difficult work I have ever done or will ever do.”
Ruby wasn’t sure this was a good fit for her, but she isn’t the type to just show up and quit, so she kept doing the hard work “More than 9 months into my apprenticeship, I was either carrying a heavy load on one shoulder or stooped over tying rod all day. When I realized this wasn’t going to be a long term fit for me, and that I needed a change, I started exploring residential carpentry.”
After doing some research, Ruby submitted a few applications with local companies, and in a couple of months, she got an offer. This was a turning point for Ruby in her career path. She was hired on by Green Gables Design and Restoration as a laborer two years ago. “I took a pay cut, but it was okay, because I knew it was the place I wanted to be. My first week with the company, I thought they were playing trick on me because the people were so nice, respectful, and easy to work with. The culture was relaxed, friendly, and positive.” The teamwork oriented crew helped her feel excited to learn.
And learning is one of the things Ruby loves most about her career. “I love that I am constantly being asked by the work to use my brain and my body in creative ways. There is always something to learn, something new, even if I’m digging a hole, there some unexpected thing I learn. I also appreciate that this is viewed as an asset by the people I’m working with.”
When we asked Ruby to share something that would surprise us, she shared, “I am very business when I get to work, and in layers and rain gear, we all look the same. People are probably surprised when I take my gloves off. I like to paint my nails – I’m femme.”
When asked to reflect back on her time in the class, Ruby said:
“I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience! Oregon Tradeswomen allowed me to get out of the ‘poverty track’ – the jobs available to me where I could just barely scrape by. Graduating from OTW got me out of that cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. But it wasn’t easy! It was a hard class. OTW is not kidding around. It’s a serious program. But it paid off. It’s a stepping stone or a gateway to a different level of prosperity!”
We are proud to be a part of advocacy work has played a role in creating and supporting needed changes in our region’s construction industry including participating in the Safe From Hate Alliance – the industry-wide effort to make workplace culture more welcoming to women and people of color – to our ongoing work hosting the Tradesworker Equity Council. Together, we are making a difference…
Almost one year ago, Oregon Tradeswomen graduate and UA Local 290 member Leslie Cotton found a noose on job-site where she was working as an apprentice plumber. Since that incident, industry and community has rallied together under the umbrella of the Safe from Hate Alliance to work together to eliminate job-site harassment, hazing, and bullying to create respectful worksites for everyone.
Last week, the Oregon Senate passed SB 398, making it a crime to display a noose. It’s sad we need a law to outlaw hate but is an important piece of the work to eliminate it from our communities and our construction industry. Oregon Tradeswomen thanks the bill’s sponsors Senators Ginny Burdick (D-18), James Manning Jr. (D-7), Michael Dembrow (D-23), Lew Frederick (D-22), Sara Gelser (D-8), Kayse Jama (D-24), and Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D-19) for their leadership. Should the bill pass the House, Oregon would join a growing list of states that have already made it a crime to display a noose. Some, like New York, provide for felony charges.
The Safe from Hate Alliance is comprised of industry employers, trade associations, unions, registered apprenticeship programs, government, public owners, and nonprofits working to ensure all workers can be safe on their job-sites and work in an environment that is respectful for everyone. This work includes a job-site culture pledge which outlines four pillars to creating respectful workplaces:
1. a zero-tolerance jobsite policy
2. Implementation of a jobsite culture program
3. Work with community partners to recruit diverse talent – including community—based pre-apprenticeship training program such as Oregon Tradeswomen’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class
4. Cultivate leadership and retention efforts for women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – we do this at Oregon Tradeswomen through our Retention Services Program which includes monthly Trades Social Hours and our annual Tradeswomen Leadership Institute.
Through our program and advocacy work, Oregon Tradeswomen is working to address each of these pillars. Working in partnership with the members of the Safe from Hate Alliance, we are supporting the Tradesworker Equity Council, comprised of apprentices and journeyworker who are most impacted by toxic job-site culture, to have a voice in public policies that affect them most in the workplace and apprenticeship. The Council members are reviewing zero tolerance and other job-site policies to help make changes that will decrease hazing, harassment, and bullying, and increase retention of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ tradesworkers.
In a new partnership with PBDG, Oregon Tradeswomen recently became the Oregon affiliate for the RISE Up 4 Equity Program. Created for the construction industry, RISE Up (respect, inclusion, safety, and equity) was developed by our sister tradeswomen organization in ANEW, based in Seattle.
Rise Up includes bystander intervention and harassment prevention training for the job-site. Training goes beyond leadership at the executive level to front-line supervisors and tradesworkers on each job-site. After reviewing existing promising models across the county and Canada, Oregon Tradeswomen was convinced that the RISE Up 4 Equity Program was the most holistic approach to changing job-site culture. To learn more about process and recommendations, read the recommendations report, Tools to Address Jobsite Culture.
Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful to COAST for their support!
With Oregon Tradeswomen’s first Pre-Apprenticeship cohort of 2021 graduating this April, COAST generously provided each graduate with a COAST gift pack of gear that will prove useful as they embark on their brand new skilled trades careers!
Beyond these graduation gifts, COAST is running a special promotion for Oregon Tradeswomen supporters, giving 20% off to their online catalog to anyone who uses code OT20 at checkout!
When we asked why COAST is supporting Oregon Tradeswomen, Marshall Alexander, Live Events and Partnership Manager at COAST, shared:
“We view trades organizations as essential to the growth, development, and advancement of the country, and no one embodies this more than Oregon Tradeswomen. Their commitment to the values of respect, excellence, equity, community, and empowerment, made this an obvious partnership for us to help them achieve their goals. We look forward to growing this partnership well into the future.”
For more than 100 years, COAST has had one goal: Make the American worker’s life safer and easier, both on the job and at home. The third generation of the Brands family continues this mindset with innovative lighting and cutting tools, as well as safety gear, and more. COAST Products continues to push the standard higher into the next generation.
Thanks again to COAST for being there for our students as they take their next steps to apprenticeship and their careers in construction!
Investment into our nation’s infrastructure is underway through President Biden’s Build Back Better Initiative and for that public investment to make a difference, the economic recovery needs to be inclusive. To that end, the National Skills Coalition and Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships have convened an Infrastructure Industry Recovery Panel of industry leaders to share recommendations on the Biden Administration through meetings with White House advisors, the Departments of Energy and Transportation, and Congressional leadership.
Oregon Tradeswomen’s Executive Director Kelly Kupcak, and Board Treasurer and principle of O’Neill Construction Group, Ali O’Neill were invited to serve on the panel!
Through our participation on the panel, we will be contributing to recommendations which address the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on workers of color, immigrants, and workers with barriers to full employment. Through an equity lens, the panel will make recommendations to work towards dismantling structural racism within workforce education and training. Oregon Tradeswomen is also advocating for the ten strategies for an equitable infrastructure outlined by the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues to be included. While skills training alone will not ensure an inclusive recovery, it should be part and parcel of our national plan and federal public policy.
Oregon Tradeswomen is committed to providing quality Pre-Apprenticeship training, but sometimes we need a little help from our community to make sure our students have the tools and gear they need to have a well-rounded trades education!
Whether you have some used items gathering dust in your garage or feel inspired to donate new equipment, Oregon Tradeswomen welcomes your help.
At this moment, our biggest needs are:
- New computers to run AutoCAD. Autodesk came through for us in a big way by donating AutoCAD software to improve our teaching! Now, we need help securing compatible computers capable of running this powerful program.
- At least 8 Milwaukee Tool, 18 Volt Lithium-Ion Power Tool batteries. Last year when COVID required us to teach without the sharing of tools – Milwaukee Tool donated enough for each student to have their own workstation.
Can you help us keep students working? Other items on our wish-list:
- 25’ 12 and 14 gauge extension cords
- Shop clamps of various sizes
- Klein wire strippers (45-120 T5 10-18 AWG)
- Milwaukee Tools Jigsaw (2781-20 – 5″ w/ slide lock bare tool)
- 24″ computer monitors
Thank you SO much for making a difference in a woman’s life!
Oregon Tradeswomen Graduate and Ironworker, Jess Ross, was recently featured in a film created by Peripheral Vision, and screened at Communion: A Virtual Film Fest.
The feature with Jess follows her on her way to work as she recalls how she first became interested in Iron work, stories from the field, and what her experience has been like over her 5 year apprenticeship and journeying out.
We have so much appreciation to Peripheral Vision for uplifting the voices and experiences of tradeswomen. Peripheral Vision PDX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit film production company and training organization dedicated to celebrating the vision, narratives and leadership of marginalized people.