In a tremendous win for workforce training equity, Governor Kate Brown signed the Future Ready Oregon bill into law. Future Ready Oregon is a blueprint for change and an opportunity to build an economy in Oregon that supports all workers in achieving their dreams and building a more prosperous future.
Funding from this bill will create new workforce development programs and expand existing programs in healthcare, technology, manufacturing, and other high-demand sectors while reducing barriers to employment. This investment package will specifically support community college Career Pathways programs, local Workforce Boards, and apprenticeship programs as they expand their capacity to provide free career education and support services to more Oregonians. Funding will also strengthen pre-apprenticeship like Oregon Tradeswomen’s Pathways to Success program that demonstrates strong outcomes for women in construction. Oregon Tradeswomen program graduates start their careers making an average wage of $22.81 per hour.
In addition to supporting and expanding current workforce development programs, Future Ready Oregon encourages innovation by providing Workforce Ready Grants to fund education and training programs in industries lacking accessible career pathways. With these programs, there is a renewed commitment to continuous improvement and accountability by tracking data to measure success outcomes for underserved populations.
Oregon’s Racial Justice Council and the Governor’s Workforce Workgroup helped guide this policy through a lens focused on equity to ensure minority groups like women and people of color are not left out of economic recovery. Oregon Tradeswomen’s Executive Director, Kelly Kupcak, served on the Governor’s Workforce Workgroup and contributed to the proposal which includes the goal of serving at least 50% women through these new and existing programs.
Future Ready Oregon makes much-needed new investments in the programs that help workers overcome barriers to pursuing careers providing economic security through good wages, health insurance, and retirement benefits. These investments will provide resources to offset the costs of support services such as childcare, transportation, and housing stabilization. When quality training is coupled with direct support, workers are successful in securing employment, businesses can meet their labor demands with a qualified workforce, and our communities have a shared prosperity model that works for everyone.
The first step to affecting change is by raising awareness: nothing can change if people don’t know about the issues! The tradeswomen movement has been around for decades, but with historically low numbers of women in the trades, it has been an uphill battle to gain visibility of this mission with our leaders, but times are changing.
The tradeswomen movement is more than just changing the idea that women can work in construction. It’s about ensuring jobsites are welcoming to women, creating debt-free pathways to employment, and reducing barriers to accessing these careers such as affordable childcare or reliable transportation. While Oregon Tradeswomen has been helping women find success in the trades since 1989, we need the awareness and support of our leaders to set up better systems to continue training and retaining diverse, skilled workers in the face of a huge labor shortage.
The Biden Administration passed the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill giving long-overdue funding to repair, rebuild, and improve upon the United States’ aging infrastructure. In addition to the roads and bridges associated with infrastructure, these funds will invest in the workers needed to achieve these goals. This means expanding apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training, addressing workplace harassment and discrimination, and ensuring women and people of color are included in this monumental overhaul of our nation’s infrastructure.
From the inception of the bill, our leaders have shown their commitment to listening to the voices of tradesworkers to make this plan equitable and effective. As part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Transportation, a virtual Town Hall was held on March 7th, 2022 to hear from a panel of workers around equitable job creation, job quality, labor standards, and workforce development. One of these panelists was Leslie Cotton, an Oregon Tradeswomen graduate and Union plumber with UA Local 290. Leslie has been a vocal advocate for women and people of color in the trades and had the opportunity to speak directly with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on the importance of access to job-training for rural Americans, and safe, healthy workplaces.
Leslie shared her story as the daughter of a single father in rural Washington who struggled, like many others in their small community, to find work that could support his family. Seeing her father work day-and-night to provide for Leslie and her disabled brother drives Leslie’s activism because she knows her family is not alone in this experience. When her father got sick, Leslie was faced with the responsibility to provide for her family and, with the job-training she received at Oregon Tradeswomen, she found the ability to do so in the trades.
Even though Leslie worked hard to build her career, as a woman and a person of color, she faced her share of obstacles. Men on the job would belittle her because they just saw her as a “diversity hire,” and not a fellow trades-worker. She even came to work one day to find a noose on her jobsite, a racist symbol that is now illegal to display in the State of Oregon. These experiences are not uncommon and by speaking up, Leslie is letting our leaders know that more must be done to ensure workplaces free of harassment, hazing, and discrimination.
With the input of trades-workers like Leslie, our movement has more visibility than ever. As a result, we are seeing a new commitment from policy-makers to invest in systems centered in equity. We look forward to following the implementation of the Infrastructure Bill and the impact on our industry. Everyone deserves to work meaningful, family-supporting jobs and we believe we are at the precipice of real change for workers everywhere.
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.
- 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
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!
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.
TASK FORCE LAUNCHED TO ASSESS AND SHARE CONSTRUCTION JOB SAFETY PRACTICES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
[PORTLAND, OREGON, April 24, 2020] — Aiming to increase job safety awareness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon State Building Trades Council has launched a task force to help construction contractors follow current guidelines and protect workers while continuing to do business.
The COVID-19 Joint Construction Safety Task Force – encompassing representatives from the building trades unions, industry partners, management, and employer representatives– has been meeting online three times a week and scheduling visits to various construction sites in Oregon.
A group of five to seven task force members, assisted by Oregon OSHA consultants, are visiting sites to assess the effectiveness of job safety practices intended to address COVID-19 and to make recommendations for improvements. All task force members and Oregon OSHA consultants will practice social distancing while visiting construction job sites. At the same time, the task force – an advisory group – is monitoring the most current health information and government guidelines, and collecting data and information about best jobsite practices. This data and information will be shared with construction contractors and workers.
“The safety of the people who are out there working on construction sites is our highest priority,” said Robert Camarillo, executive secretary for the Oregon State Building Trades Council. “With this task force, our goal is to improve job safety and increase educational resources during an incredibly challenging time.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order – issued in response to the coronavirus outbreak – does not include construction among the businesses that must close.
The COVID-19 Joint Construction Safety Task Force is a partnership of union and non-union industry professionals, with support from Oregon OSHA. Its membership includes:
- Associated General Contractors-Oregon Columbia Chapter
- Central Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council
- Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council
- Hoffman Construction Company
- Lane, Coos, Curry, Douglas Building & Construction Trades Council
- O’Neill Electrical Construction
- Oregon Home Builders Association
- Oregon OSHA
- Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council
- Oregon Tradeswomen
- Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters
- Pendleton Building and Construction Trades Council
- Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association
- Salem Building and Construction Trades Council
- Southern Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council
- University of Oregon Labor Education and Resource Center, LERC
For questions about the construction task force, contact:
Mary Ann Naylor, communications director
Robert Camarillo, executive secretary
Oregon State Building Trades Council
Mike Salsgiver, executive director
Associated General Contractors – Oregon Columbia Chapter
Matt Swanson, political coordinator
Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters
Mark Long, chief executive officer
Oregon Home Builders Association
Aaron Corvin, public information officer
Oregon Tradeswomen is committed to ensuring women, people of color, low-income communities, and other historically disenfranchised groups benefit in publicly funded projects through access to quality job training, support services, job placement support and high-wage careers.
As part of our public policy and advocacy work, Oregon Tradeswomen endorses the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity (MAWE) Community Benefits Agreement model as a policy framework for ensuring access, opportunity, and equity on all publicly funded projects, including the Broadway Corridor Project.
We are working in coalition as a member of the Healthy Communities Coalition (HCC) – a group of 20+ organizations negotiating a legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Prosper Portland, Continuum Partners, and the City of Portland on the Broadway Corridor redevelopment in downtown Portland. HCC wants to ensure that the City of Portland and Prosper Portland support standard-setting new benefits to advance good jobs, affordable housing, and equity for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and working class communities.
The Broadway Corridor is 34 acres that connects or includes landmarks and neighborhoods such as Old Town Chinatown, the Pearl District, Union Station, the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the U.S. Post Office, which will be demolished as part of redevelopment. Historically, the Broadway Corridor has been the home for communities of color who have been forcibly displaced over the past century as a result of “the effects of racialized policies, practices, and decision-making.”
The Broadway Corridor is on the land that has been home for Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Mollala and many other tribes. Black Americans, many of them porters who arrived from Union Station, lived in, created and supported Black-owned hotels and other businesses in the early 20th century. It was once the home of to Japanese Americans until the U.S. government’s internment order in 1942 that forced these Portlanders to leave their homes and businesses.
This August, the billion dollar development is almost able to move forward after an agreement was reached on the adoption of a development deal as well as a CBA. This consensus guarantees prevailing wages, full-family health care benefits, and the significant inclusion of minority-owned contractors throughout the construction process. In addition to these terms benefiting workers, goals for 100 percent renewable energy to achieve carbon neutrality have also been included.
As the Broadway Corridor Project is in motion, the Portland Housing Bureau committed to reaching out to Black, Japanese-American, and Chinese-Americans (groups who have historically resided in these neighborhoods) offering affordable housing. This effort underscores the integrity of this project, clearly distinguishing it from previous urban developments which have dislocated minority groups.
To oversee the agreed-upon goals, a 10-member committee appointed by HCC and Prosper Portland will be monitor progress on the project – the Broadway Corridor
Oregon Tradeswomen’s Workforce Equity Manager, Jay Richmond, commented on this historic project, noting, “The successful agreement for a CBA on the Broadway Corridor represents a sea change in the way development will be done in the region going forward. We’ve made sure there is meaningful investment in creating a pipeline of opportunity for women, people of color, and working families to enter into the trades. We secured 720 units of affordable housing, family wage jobs, and small business opportunities, as well as construction hiring goals which will have huge positive impacts for BIPOC communities. That said, we know this work has just begun, and look forward to making sure these goals are met through the ongoing oversight of the BCCOC.”
While we are celebrating this positive step, the hard work isn’t over. The Portland City Council must still review and accept the agreements, and the Broadway Corridor master plan is currently under review by the Portland Design Commission. Ultimately, we are hopeful the success of these negotiations will serve as the model for future projects to intentionally bring benefits to the communities where these construction projects happen.
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!