In 2018, I sat outside an event at Women Build Nations and talked with Kelly Kupcak, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen. It was a very difficult conversation because I had just told her about my impossible decision to leave the organization and move on to other work. Kelly and I cried together and dreamt of how we would continue to work together in a different context. I made the choice for my own life and career, but I didn’t fully understand that more than leaving a “job,” I was going to feel like I had left the tradesworker community.
In the same way that I didn’t fully understand what I was losing in 2018, I didn’t fully comprehend how much returning to Oregon Tradeswomen would feel like coming home. For those of you that don’t know me (yet), my name is Tiffany Thompson (she/her) and I am the new Director of the RISE Up program in Oregon. I worked at Oregon Tradeswomen for five years –organizing the Tradeswomen Leadership Institute, coordinating volunteers for Oregon Tradeswomen’s Career Fair, advocating for public policy, and providing training and assistance for unions, apprenticeship programs, and contractors. By and far, I was the most passionate about changing construction culture and preventing hazing, bullying, and harassment.
Even though I was no longer with Oregon Tradeswomen, tradesworkers still reached out to me to share their experiences of harassment and hostile worksites. I feel incredibly honored and grateful to these folks for trusting me. It is each one of those stories, each moment of trust, that made me realize that I still wanted to be focused on creating culture change. In 2018, it was a fledgling conversation about how to address issues that were rampant throughout the industry. Now, in 2021, so much has shifted, and I am deeply grateful that I can work full time, as a part of this community, to build the work environments that we all deserve – a culture that is inclusive to all people, where BIPOC and workers of all genders are able to thrive, grow, and build long-lasting careers.
If you have not heard of RISE Up (Respect, Inclusion, Safety and Equity), it is a respectful workplace program designed to provide all workers with the tools and support necessary to create and maintain a safe, inclusive and productive work environment for everyone. RISE Up provides industry best practice workplace consulting and training to help contractors and sub-contractors create an environment of productivity, safety, and equity in construction management and on work sites. I KNOW that change is possible and I firmly believe RISE Up is a path to much needed change. While I am grateful for the trust of tradesworkers, I hope that we will get to a place that no one needs to reach out with those stories again – that my new job will be unnecessary.
Now, these conversations are not just possible because of RISE Up. There is a huge push in the construction industry in Oregon for jobsite culture change. First off, I was working as the Construction Career Pathways program manager at Metro. Through this program, public agencies are teaming up with stakeholders from private industry, apprenticeship programs, unions, and community-based organizations to provide reliable career pathways for women and Black, Indigenous and people of color in the construction trades. Construction Career Pathways is a regional effort and, including culture change, anti-harassment training is a key focus of the work. Without this regional conversation, I don’t think I would be back at Oregon Tradeswomen! In addition, as a response to hate crimes on jobsites in 2020, the industry created the Safe from Hate Alliance. Participants much sign the Jobsite Culture Pledge and they are meeting regularly to create this change throughout the construction industry.
With all of these efforts underway, I can’t wait to see where we are in another three years. Through collaboration and intentional efforts, we can all work toward a future where worksites are truly safe in an industry that is free of discrimination, harassment, hazing and bullying.
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has welcomed me back with such enthusiasm and are sharing in my optimism about the RISE Up program. And, for those of you who I have not met yet, I can’t wait to continue to build community with you.
Tiffany Thompson (she/her)
Director of Workforce Equity and Technical Assistance
503.335.8200 x 136
Oregon Tradeswomen recognizes the need to provide options to working women to participate in our programs. Many of our Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) pre-apprentices are not only juggling family demands, but working while attending the program. In fact, many join while employed full time and have to give up employment in order to attend. To help these students achieve their career goals while financially sustaining their families, Oregon Tradeswomen responded by offering a night and weekend TACC class this Summer.
Here are some of the participants’ accomplishments observed so far, thanks to the alternative night and weekend schedule:
- Two TACC participants work full-time jobs during the day and are committed to graduate while preparing for IBEW’s Electrical Apprenticeship.
- A third student is working full-time as a teacher aid while caring for a newborn and a toddler while attending TACC.
- Another participant is able to work part-time, care for her kids, and thanks to the current schedule, her husband can watch the kids in the evenings.
- We also have a participant who is a full-time mom, and is able to leave her kids with their dad in the evenings so that she can attend classes.
Oregon Tradeswomen is able to be responsive to jobseeker needs, and shift our programming with the valuable collaboration of industry partners and we will continue to make our program more accessible. Look for additional evening and weekend classes in 2022!
On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visited Oregon and came to the UA Local 290 Springfield Training Center to talk about the Biden administration’s #BuildBackBetter plan and the goal of building an inclusive, worker-centered economy.
Secretary Walsh was joined by Representative Peter DeFazio, Oregon Labor Commissioner, Val Hoyle, and other labor leaders around the state. Together, they discussed the pending infrastructure bill and how the Biden administration plans to invest in apprenticeship and advancements for workforce equity.
The same day, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan physical infrastructure bill including substantive investments in roads, bridges, rail, transit, and utilities. The amendment for workforce equity which would increase access for women and people of color on infrastructure construction jobs was not included in the final bill.
Our tradeswomen community will continue to work for equitable access and opportunities for women and people of color in the construction industry and is so appreciative of the Labor Secretary’s visit to advocate for registered apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and infrastructure investments to benefit all workers. When asked by Oregon Tradeswomen’s Executive Director, Kelly Kupcak, about his leadership at the U.S. Department of Labor, he outlined a comprehensive commitment to all workers, migrants, women, disabled persons, veterans, and BIPOC. He concluded by saying “Equity is in my DNA”.
Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful for Secretary Walsh’s leadership and his dedication to equity and fighting for worker dignity on the front lines.
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.
- 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
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.
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!