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