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!
Bringing in the money to keep nonprofits going, year after year, is mostly like a big patchwork quilt your grandma made. It has:
- Bits of solid old fabric (funders who are with you year after year)
- Patches of new fabric (new donors) to cover the worn spots
- Yearly mending to keep the quilt from fraying as the years go by.
Those of us who work at nonprofits often ask each other about this patchwork and share stories of pain and triumph. 2020 started as a year full of hope and excitement – we moved into our beautiful new workshop and training facility in January. We set up desks for our newly expanded staff and welcomed the first group of students into the new classroom where we expected to serve more women and do it more effectively than ever before. On track to offer classes in the evenings and on weekends, we had finally removed one of the historic barriers preventing more women from taking advantage of this free, life changing resource.
As the year wore on, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under our feet with COVID health and safety restrictions forcing us to cancel classes and our oh-so-beloved annual Career Fair.
But then the light started to shine through the window and help started to show up in many different forms:
- We’re grateful to the Foundation Partners who called to say that our grant funding could be used to simply get through the year.
- Long time industry partners, hearing about lost funding, said – “how can we help?” – then they dug deep and doubled or tripled their “normal” investment.
- A ten year old named Earlie, who saves her money all year to help local nonprofits, sent in a gift of $25 (Thank you Earlie!)
- When we needed extra tools to set up the training workshop in a COVID-safe way, and I couldn’t reach my local contacts, the leadership team at Milwaukee Tools simply said “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you”
- When we needed extra lumber and supplies to re-start training, Parr Lumber and Platt Electric donated everything on our wish list.
- A woman I’ve never met knocked on the front door, told me she had known about our work for some time and thought we might need some help. She sat and wrote us a check saying, “Use it wherever you need it most”.
- In the first two weeks of the Willamette Week Give!Guide, half of all the donors have made their first gift to the organization.
We’re grateful for every person, for every dollar and for every kind word that has helped us get through this year – including Laura, who sent in $10 and said “I’m unemployed right now, I wish this was more”.
To every single person who has invested in our work and the mission of OTW, and who’s helping us put women to work, giving them and their families a secure future – YOU will forever be part of our well loved patchwork quilt.
We at Oregon Tradeswomen are big fans of stories that start with a couple of friends and a bold idea. In 30 years, Oregon Tradeswomen has grown from small support group meetings in a basement to a dynamic nonprofit. Today, Oregon Tradeswomen offers hands-on training, job placement, supportive services, and advocacy for women, trans, and gender-diverse people seeking fulfilling, living-wage careers in the skilled trades. We’ve experienced first-hand the power of coming together to create meaningful change in our community.
In 2017, a few friends here in Portland had a similar idea; what if, instead of each of them making many donations to Portland’s nonprofits, they pooled their resources in order to make a significant impact? The result was Ninety-Nine Girlfriends, a women’s giving circle currently comprised of 480 members. This model of one person asking a friend to join her and pitch in, to use her resources to lift others up, is very near to our hearts! In its first year, Ninety-Nine Girlfriends made one $100,000 grant to a Portland nonprofit. In 2019, they were able to offer five such awards, one in each of their focus areas:
- Arts & Culture
- Education & Lifelong Learning
- Environment & Sustainability
- Family & Human Services
- Health & Wellness.
Oregon Tradeswomen is honored to be a 2019 recipient of Ninety-Nine Girlfriend’s Impact Grant. This transformational gift will go a long way in helping Oregon Tradeswomen achieve our long-time goal of expanding training options with evening and weekend classes once we are settled in our new location and training workshop in early 2020. We want to thank each and every one of the 480 Girlfriends for their support and generosity.
Oregon Tradeswomen is especially grateful to Vanessa Vasquez, Isis Harris, and Heather Mayther, who shared their stories during the application and review process.
Thank you, Ninety-Nine Girlfriends, for your support and generosity, and to all our funders and individual donors who have supported us this year.
To find out more information about 99 Girlfriends and their 2019 Grantee Partner winners, please visit their website here!
Build With Us!, Oregon Tradeswomen’s third annual Blue Collar Gala, was filled to capacity with excitement, generosity and a few happy tears! YOU turned out in force with an overwhelming outpouring of support that exceeded our goal and will help set us up to serve even more tradeswomen in our new training facility in January. The incredible spirit of community and unwavering commitment to equity, inclusion, and economic justice is humbling.
Congratulations to four incredible people, nominated by the industry and awarded for their commitment to being leaders in their trades. Valerie Curbelo, Shaz Lynch, Sara Moore, and Aisha Winters (Not Pictured) were selected for the award by Oregon Tradeswomen’s Board of Directors, not an easy feat considering the field of 27 exceptional nominees.
Two new honors were also awarded this year: The Equity Partner Award and the Wanda Hall Legacy Award. The Equity Partner Award was given to Rod Belisle, Training Director at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center, to honor his commitment to increasing diversity in the electrical trade, and for being an incredible partner to Oregon Tradeswomen.
The other new award in 2019 was a posthumous award presented to the daughters of Wanda Hall of the Portland Water Bureau. Wanda’s enthusiasm and dedication to uplifting women in the trades through support and mentorship will be missed. Starting in 2020, Oregon Tradeswomen will solicit nominations for the Wanda Hall Legacy Award to honor other women in the trades whose commitment to informing and mentoring the next generation stands out. Oregon Tradeswomen salutes all the winners and nominees for their perseverance, passion, and grit, and thank them for their many contributions to our community, industry, and movement.
The staff and board of Oregon Tradeswomen thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity – helping us build the future home of Oregon Tradeswomen and increasing our capacity to help more women change their lives. Thank you for helping us pave a pathway to prosperity for the women who want to work in construction and a brighter future for our region’s construction workforce and industry.
We hope you had a wonderful time and we look forward to seeing you next year!