Oregon Tradeswomen has offered Monthly Social Hours for years as a way for tradeswomen to connect with each other and provide educational experiences through topics and guest speakers. As a tradeswoman, it is commonplace to be the only woman on a jobsite, and the opportunity to connect with other women in the trades is such an important aspect for the retention of women in construction careers.
When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted us last year, our Retention Services Coordinator, Kim Neel, knew it was more important than ever to offer a way for tradeswomen to continue to have an opportunity for support and socializing. With that, OTWednesdays was created, a virtual Social Hour taking place on the third Wednesday of every month!
Unlike past Social Hours, OTWednesdays is more of an open format, with no topics or guest speakers, just pure connection between tradesworkers of all ages and experiences. There is something so special about seeing the mentorship between veteran tradeswomen and those who are just getting started on their paths with the sharing of stories, advice on surviving apprenticeship, and tips on how to earn the respect of their male peers. At a recent social hour, we had a tile-setter named Joanne who had been in her trade since the 1980’s who generously answered questions from some upcoming pre-apprenticeship students who were excited about their new careers, but a little nervous about what to expect. From advice on what PPE (personal protective equipment) to invest in to how to approach learning a new tool, the exchange of information was inspiring to witness and it was clear that the novice tradesworkers there took Joanne’s advice to heart.
A unique aspect of our virtual format is that other supporters of tradeswomen can join in to connect and learn. Sometimes industry partners join to provide opportunities to tradeswomen to advance their careers, offering a foot in the door for elevated positions like Construction Inspector or Surveyor. We have even been joined by regional legislators like Sue Chew, Idaho State Representative District 17, who want to learn more about tradeswomen issues as well as provide resources for professional development opportunities. We are grateful for those in our industry and those who are supporters of the tradeswomen movement for their commitment and involvement.
As the pandemic begins to wind down and we look to the future for what is on our horizon, we are evaluating how to best offer support to tradeswomen. While we cannot wait to host Social Hours in our own building, we have seen the value of providing a virtual space for tradeswomen and their supporters to gather and collaborate. Many tradeswomen are tired after a long day of hard work and to have to go home, change out of their work gear, and head out to a social gathering is not always easy. But, to be able to settle in to a comfy chair after work and simply log in to Zoom, the opportunity to socialize is available to a wider community of tradesworkers and their supporters!
The connection between tradeswomen is so valuable, and our goal is to offer easy access to a supportive community that can provide advice and camaraderie. Being a tradeswoman is a unique experience and the hurdles that can come with it can become more manageable when there is a place for others with similar experiences to gather and socialize.
Did you know construction workers are disproportionately affected by heart disease? One in four tradesworkers have high blood pressure, some even being unaware of it before its too late! While construction careers are active jobs, some even say a replacement for the gym, that doesn’t automatically grant tradesworkers a path to great health. After speaking with Lily Banning of the American Heart Association (AHA), we learned there are multiple factors for this heightened risk for heart-attack and stroke for tradesworkers.
Hardhats with Heart is an initiative under the AHA that came to existence when a volunteer, Bart Dickson, President and Founder of Cobalt, spoke up about the frankly unacceptable amount of times he had to make calls to the families of his workers to let them know their loved ones had suffered from a heart attack or stroke on the jobsite. After some investigation, it became clear that there is a direct connection between stress and heart health for tradesworkers with the mental and physical demands of the jobs often being exacerbated by unhealthy coping habits such as poor diet, increased use of energy drinks, use of tobacco products, as well as lack of information about the warning signs of cardiovascular disease.
The AHA is also exploring the role of workplace culture as a contributing factor to overall stress levels and heart health. Jobsites where workers experience harassment and discrimination are hostile work environments which not only negatively impact worker safety, productivity, and retention, but also heart health and overall well-being! These impacts are intensified for women and BIPOC tradesworkers, which is why Oregon Tradeswomen focused on jobsite culture change work: we are an affiliate trainer of RISE Up – a bystander intervention model to prevent bullying and harassment, and part of the work around Safe From Hate which calls on all industry stakeholders in the construction industry to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion by clearly addressing jobsite culture.
With help from construction companies and construction-adjacent organizations like Oregon Tradeswomen, the American Heart Association started Hardhats with Heart in 2017 with three local priorities here in Oregon: Increase access and education about healthy diets, help tradesworkers manage chronic disease, and reduce the high risk of heart disease in tradeswomen. Hardhats with Heart is working hard with the local construction industry to provide jobsite trainings on health and stress-management, offering on-site blood pressure screenings, and creating a virtual Resource Hub for tradesworkers and their employers to learn more about the simple ways they can help prevent heart disease and deaths.
This online Resource Hub is dedicated to health information specific to the construction industry with the intent of being free and easily available. Subjects include nutrition, mental well-being, fitness, managing blood pressure, and more! When we asked the AHA’s Community Impact Director, Lily Banning, about what she wanted our audience to know about these online resources, she told us, “Hardhats with Heart is rolling out a series of industry-wide trainings for free! There is a focus on a different topic for every month starting this July, running through December. We encourage all tradesworkers and their employers to join in on the conversation and get their questions answered!”
Hardhats with Heart looks to continue improving its resources and the services they offer to tradesworkers so that the number of lives lost from preventable disease is reduced. To do this, they want to hear from you! What are you doing to take care of your health? Is there a focus on health, both heart specific and holistically, on your jobsite? What can Hardhats with Heart do for you?
If you are passionate about this issue and want to contribute or want to learn more about how to get involved with Hardhats with Heart, please contact Lily Banning at Lily.Banning@heart.org.
As a community, the goal is to provide free and easy to access free resources to help inspire and equip tradesworkers to live longer, healthier lives.
- Todd Duwe, Perlo Construction
- Meyer Memorial Trust headquarters project
- Mel Jones, JE Dunn Construction
- Román Hernández, Troutman Pepper
- Kelly Kupcak, Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.
- Wenaha Group
- Portland Building reconstruction project
- RKm Development
- The Skanner (lifetime achievement award)
- Center for Equity & Inclusion
- Advanced Tribal LLC
- Hacienda Community Development Corp.
- Angela Watkins, Minority Construction Group and Constructing Hope
- NAMC University
- Safe from Hate initiative
As it happens with many long-range plans, a day once so far away, is suddenly upon us. Oregon Tradeswomen’s CEO and lauded labor activist, Madelyn Elder, is retiring in June!
Madelyn came to Oregon Tradeswomen with firsthand experience of what it’s like to be female in a male dominated industry. She worked for more than 20 years in both Seattle and Portland as a cable splicer before shifting her work to focus on worker justice and financial management. Madelyn served as president of the Communications Workers of America (CW) local 7901 for 15 years. During this time, she also earned her post baccalaureate degree in accounting.
Madelyn retired from CWA in 2014 and joined Oregon Tradeswomen full time as our first Chief Financial Officer. Madelyn’s work and leadership has been invaluable to our growth as an organization, and living our work and mission to ensure equity and dignity in the workplace.
Madelyn’s team will miss her leadership, sass, and joyful laughter. We know she will continue showing up and speaking out for worker justice.
We wish Madelyn all the best in retirement and know that while she will get to spend time with friends, family, and go on many birding adventures, she will continue to raise hell.! Much love to and best wishes to our sister.
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 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 a 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-like 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.