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
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!”
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.
“2 weeks of work, 8 straight days of 16–17-hour days with only 4 hours of sleep between…”
This is part of a message we received from 2013 Oregon Tradeswomen Program graduate and Power Line Tree Trimmer, Deena Barbera, and we’re both proud of and exhausted for her!
With the inclement weather conditions brought on by the huge winter storm that hit Oregon in February of 2021, Deena worked tirelessly and didn’t stop until power was restored for the thousands of Oregonians who were left without electricity.
Deena and her crew of tree-trimmers are the essential workers who clear the tree debris obstructing power lines, allowing the line-workers access to power lines and restore power to communities facing record power outages. The work of a Power Line Tree Trimmer is crucial for community safety even when they aren’t busy clearing tree debris for the line-workers to restore power during an outage. When trees and tree limbs grow freely around power lines, there is a risk of electric shock or electrocution due to leaves or branches touching the lines. Other times, trees that are left to grow without maintenance and trimming have branches that grow heavy and break, taking power lines down with them.
Deena wasn’t always in the Tree Trimming trade though; before joining Oregon Tradeswomen’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), she worked in retail. Despite always giving 110% and making it clear she aspired advance in her company, management only offered promises for career mobility – never delivering. Wanting to see real outcomes from her hard work, Deena decided enough was enough and came to Oregon Tradeswomen’s Annual Career Fair. From here, Deena’s eyes opened to a new world of possibility in the construction trades.
During Deena’s time as a pre-apprentice with Oregon Tradeswomen, she built her skills and gained industry knowledge. She also found community in other women like herself who want to work hard, get their hands dirty, and build a better life. Beyond that, Deena shared that “Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship prepared me for what to expect in a male-dominated career.”
After graduating from TACC, Deena first started a career welding and spent 4 years in that line of work before learning about opportunities with NW Line. Intrigued by the trade, Deena went back to Oregon Tradeswomen’s Career Fair to make connections at the NW Line JATC booth and to try out the hands-on activities. With the solid foundation she built during TACC, Deena had the confidence in herself and her abilities to know that she could be successful in the line trades.
Today, Deena is thriving as a 4th Year Apprentice working for Asplundh under the NW Line JATC. When she’s not clearing tree debris during storms and power outages, she and her crew visit sites each day to trim trees within 10 feet on any power line. Some trims are short, while other jobs take hours. Those long-haul jobs are usually “burners,” a shorthand term for trees that make contact with the lines. In those cases, they use special techniques and non-conductive tools to safely clear the trees without getting electrocuted. To say the least, it takes serious skill and precision to be a tree-trimmer.
Trades workers like Deena play such a huge part in keeping our communities safe and functioning! We are so proud of Deena for her hard work, dedication, and accomplishments and are hope she and her team got a lot of much-deserved rest when their work was done doing the critical work to restore power for so many Oregonians who lost electricity during the historic winter storms of February 2021!
Tracy Weber: On A Path to Financial Stability and a Secure Future
Tracy graduated from Oregon Tradeswomen’s (OTW) apprenticeship readiness class in March 2020 – the first full class in our brand-new building and workshop before COVID shifted our in-person gatherings.
Since completing OTW’s class, Tracy had another baby and recently started her Carpentry Apprenticeship. We are so happy for Tracy in these next steps in pursuing a career in a trade she had always been interested in but just didn’t know how to get started. OTW is happy to be part of her success story and will be here for future support, training, and connections.
Tracy recently shared her personal story of working in customer service, becoming a mother, and wanting to provide a more stable future for her family at Worksystems’ EOP program presentation at Prosper Portland‘s Board meeting. We invite you to watch it and hear directly from Tracy how she went from working a dead end job, and smoking pot all the time, and not caring about the future, to getting serious to get the training and support needed to pursue a career as a Carpenter.
Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful to our community of supporters and donors who make it possible for strong women like Tracy to get the information, training, and support they need to build strong lives, families, and communities.
The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues recently announced that Leah Rambo is now serving as the new Co-Chair of the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s issues.
Leah began her career as a sheet metal worker in 1988 and after working 10 years in the field, she was appointed as a full-time instructor, becoming the first woman to hold this position. She continues to hold the position of Director of Training for SMART Local 28, where her primary responsibility is training Local 28’s 521 apprentices and 2,300 Journey and Light Commercial workers!
Leah currently serves on the New York City Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Council and Gender Equity Committee and is the Co-Chair of the NYC Coalition for Women in Construction. Leah holds a BA in Labor Education and several trade certifications.
To learn more about Leah Rambo and her journey into the trades, watch this video interview with Leah published last year!
“We admire the ability of Oregon Tradeswomen to do outreach and offer training that helps people be work ready in such a short time. We want to make sure everyone who needs more workers knows about this incredible resource and help them train even more construction workers!”
~ HoneyPot Fund donors
Oregon Tradeswomen is truly lucky to have such tremendous support across our industry and community to live our mission and work in supporting women into skilled trades careers and economic self-sufficiency.
Two such donors, who wish to remain anonymous, created the “HoneyPot Fund” to support our Pathways to Success program and general operation support for our expansion to Rockwood. These incredible donors are challenging others to step up to fund our apprenticeship readiness program and help ensure more women have good careers with good wages and benefits to support themselves and their families.
What’s the Challenge?
The HoneyPot Fund is offering $10,000 to match any $10,000 donation to Oregon Tradeswomen!
ATTN: HoneyPot Fund
3934 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Suite 101
Portland, OR 97212
How Can I Support the Challenge?
Are you ready to put your wallet behind your conviction to a diverse, skilled, and equitable workforce? We knew you’d say YES! Donate today and challenge others in our industry and community!
How will my donation help?
Your generous contribution will be matched by the HoneyPot Fund to help support Oregon Tradeswomen’s continued growth, our move to Rockwood, and allow us to support more women securing their economic future through and help meet industry demand for a skilled and diverse workforce!
Thank you for your support and stepping up to the HoneyPot Industry Challenge!
With gratitude & love,
Since the introduction of the Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) concept, there has been concern in the field about creating another form of apprenticeship including oversight, alignment, equity components, and guidance on how employers implement anti-harassment and discrimination requirements as well as other issues such as portability, and industry standards. The DOL’s proposed rule would formally include IRAPs in the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR Part 29) that govern the RA system under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937.
Additionally, the rule aims to establish a process to authorize third-party “Standards Recognition Entities (SREs)” that would recognize IRAPs. The proposed rule describes what entities may become SREs; what their responsibilities and requirements would be; hallmarks of the high-quality apprenticeship programs they would recognize; and how the administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship would interact with them. The rule also describes how IRAPs would operate in parallel with the RA system.
This proposed rule change is an important moment that will affect the future of apprenticeship and access, opportunity and equity in apprenticeship – please take time to respond to public comment in sharing your knowledge and expertise during this comment period.
The deadline to submit comments is August 26, 2019! Please make your voice heard!
Oregon Tradeswomen is proud of our contributions to the Multnomah County Courthouse building – a project reflecting our shared values of diversity within its workforce, clients, contractors, and the community as a shared prosperity model. In alignment with Multnomah County’s commitment to advancing cultural diversity and social equity in the workforce, Oregon Tradeswomen is working to support these same goals.
The County and the general contractor for the project, Hoffman Construction, set specific diversity and equity goals and built a diverse team of subcontractors. The team is tracking progress toward these goals on monthly basis to ensure the principals of diversity, equity, and inclusion are making an impact in real time on the job and for our region’s workforce and minority contractor community.
In addition to working with Oregon Tradeswomen, Multnomah County and Hoffman Construction are working with subcontractors and other Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) certified pre-apprenticeship training programs on recruitment, training, and retention of women and minority workers across trades, and continuing to foster a welcoming and safe workplace environment where workers and emerging firms have opportunities to grow and succeed. View the latest diversity dashboard for all the reporting metrics.
Thanks to an investment by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry, Oregon Tradeswomen was able to introduce a bystander intervention model to reduce hazing, harassment, and bullying, which disproportionately affect women and minorities on the job-site. The County and Hoffman Construction committed to implementing and testing this pilot model to evaluate the impact on worker satisfaction, safety, retention, and workplace equity. To date, the project has seen some successes in building a respectful workplace model, hearing from tradesworkers on the jobsite who have expressed the difference on working on a construction site that has a commitment to ending harassment and discrimination.
Because of these intentional policies, tradesworkers like Oregon Tradeswomen graduate, carpenter, and mother of triplets, Heather Mayther, now have access to careers that provide financial stability for their families as well as the pride that comes with building up their communities. Recently, Multnomah County produced a short video telling the stories of Heather and fellow tradesperson, Shawn Story, and how their involvement in this project has transformed their lives. Stories like Shawn and Heather’s are valuable as they help people outside of the construction industry understand that these jobs can lift people out of poverty and into the middle class. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury showed this video as part of her State of the County address and declared, “I am proud that these public projects are changing the Portland skyline, but I am most proud that they are changing lives.”
No one said it was easy being a tradeswoman and a mom, but being a tradeswoman can give you the financial security to provide for your family. Trillium Ward began her journey into the skilled trades as a single mother of two, working as a drug and alcohol counselor for kids and young adults. Her job as a counselor was challenging work that only paid $12.50 an hour, hardly enough to support a family of three. Public assistance was helpful, but this was not the life Trillium imagined for herself. She had always loved working with her hands and took wood-shop, metal-shop, and other vocational programs her high school offered which focused on hands-on learning. With these experiences, the skilled trades started to look quite appealing as a new career option.
Trillium first applied to become an electrical apprentice with the IBEW, but didn’t score high enough on the application process to enter the program. After hearing about Oregon Tradeswomen around the community, she decided to enroll in the pre-apprenticeship program, the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC). She knew that going through this program would be like receiving an endorsement of her qualifications and ability to succeed in the field. She was accepted to a special session of TACC that ran at night, which allowed her to continue working full time to support her family. If that wasn’t enough to demonstrate her commitment, she was also simultaneously taking a welding class on weekends!
After all her hard work in Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship program, Trillium graduated from TACC, re-applied to the IBEW’s apprenticeship program, and was accepted! As an apprentice, she immediately made $3 more per hour than she did as a drug and alcohol counselor. Being a single mother at the time, it was imperative to have a support network of family and other moms to help out with childcare because a typical day for Trillium started at 4:00 am! Thankfully, just 6 months into her apprenticeship, Trillium made enough money to get off of state assistance and afford daycare. Her advice to mothers thinking about pursuing a career in the trades is to “make sure you have reliable daycare that can accommodate early mornings and the ability to be flexible with your schedule!”
Just 5 years after starting on this new path, Trillium journeyed out of the Electrical apprenticeship! This is an incredibly proud accomplishment for her, because she managed to meet all of the strict program requirements around attendance and grades, all while having a new baby with her partner. Trillium is currently working for Oregon Electric Group where she runs bus ducts, installs conduits, pulls wire, creates panels, and installs lights among – other things. Trillium loves how her work keeps her brain engaged – whether she is learning new technology, new skills, or being put in different situations requiring adaptation and problem-solving. The hardest part about her job is the lack of continuity. When the people you work with, your start time, and your commute change regularly, its hard to plan for the future.
The biggest barrier Trillium faces as a woman in the trades is not outright harassment, but that compared to the men on her crews, she is not taken seriously. As a result, she has to to above and beyond to prove herself on every job-site – otherwise the men frequently assume that she isn’t competent. This becomes exhausting when you’re changing job-sites regularly – having to prove your worth with a new crew each time. Trillium’s advice for other tradeswomen is to help support other women. Solidarity is important in this field, so when you see other women, reach out, because the isolation can be hard.
In the end, the hard work pays off. Trillium says, “The amount of change in my financial status, going from poverty and living paycheck to paycheck, to financial freedom where I can buy a home and go on vacation has made a world of difference in my life and my children’s lives.”