To the members of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers:

My name is Jeanne Park and I am a woman ironworker. My book number is 1222400 and I have been a member of the international since 1995.

To some of you I might be a novelty; many of you haven’t worked with a woman in the trades before. To some, I represent many of the things that are wrong with today's society and an intrusion on my coworkers’ masculinity. And to others, I am a symbol of unity that the trade could have and the growth and progress our trade could make in the future.

Numerous building trades councils tell us that union membership has decreased. In fact, almost all building trades will soon face a shortage of workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the construction industry will hire about 250,000 new workers each year for the next seven years. Only an estimated 150,000 new workers will come into the trades, creating a continuing shortage of skilled workers. School systems have dealt with dwindling financial support by disbanding skilled shop programs and accepting corporate donations. Many school children have no idea of options the union trades provide them.

Students are often directed to college or computer related tracks, though they may not have the desire to go through with these career options. We must begin to work harder at recruitment of workers, and ALL potential applicants with interest must be encouraged. We are skilled at teaching through apprenticeship, and building solidarity—our results stand tall as our union-made structures—you need only to look around our country to see what we have created!

According to the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau: Women are projected to comprise 47 percent of the total labor force in 2014. They will also account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth from 2004-2014.

About 900,000 women across the United States work in some form of construction--a rise of 18 percent over the last eight years, according to the National Association for Women in Construction.

Though the Equal Employment Opportunity Act was passed in the early 1970s, women account for only 9 percent of total construction workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why then is it that that women account for such a small number of members in our union? The most frequently heard theory is that women cannot or will not do our type of work. History tells the tale that women have done ironworking, liked it, did it well, and had to be forced out of continuing to do it. The fact is that women have done this type of work at least since World War II, when they were urged to serve their country by picking up rivet guns and welding rods , while men were sent to fight. They defied convention and social norms to work with pride--to work with their hands. Employers discovered that not only did they have to hire women because of the dwindling male work force, but they wanted to: the presence of women brought a camaraderie to the worksites, jobs were made smoother and loads were reduced to fit the women workers, resulting in more efficiency, and less injuries overall. After the war, women were then fired en masse in order to welcome the veteran male soldiers back to their civilian jobs, effectively belittling the female contribution to the war effort by workers and veterans alike. Unions used seniority to leverage women from their blue-collar jobs, jobs that women were doing well at and wanted to keep.

I find it sad that in many ways we are reliving unnecessary conflicts we have already been through in the past and should have learned from. Working people in this country, who face unprecedented assaults from anti-union forces that want to roll back the hard-won gains of the labor movements, should all be in this struggle together, regardless of sex, race, creed or color.

In a trade related to ours, the steelworkers was issued a consent decree in 1974. A consent decree entails a form of “settling out of court” between a particular industry and the government in matters of non-compliance to law. The book Women of Steel was written to track the process of the women brought into steel mills as a result. An analysis of the situation at steel mills in the 80s reveals that most women were able to perform their jobs well, that they liked their jobs, and that the most important factor determining their acceptance in their workplace was their attitude. Although women are still a minority today in the steelworkers union, female leadership has flourished. The women have created a healthy organization called “women of steel” with chapters in many of their locals, which provides support within their ranks and outside, addressing union matters at large.

Women were also encouraged to work construction by the government in 1978 under President Carter’s Executive Order. His intention was to set goals for the expansion of women into the workforce, and construction in particular. Women were to comprise 6.9% of the labor force by 1983. These goals were pursued until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 or as retired ironworker Mary Michels calls it, “the beginning of the Reagan-Bush Dark Ages” and the decimation of funding for programs to train women entering the building trades. The estimate of women in the construction force in 1983 was actually about 1.8% of all workers.

Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. In 1996 with welfare reform came an opportunity to introduce women into construction fields again. With the help of legal and community based organizations, women with less education were being introduced to the concept of a decent wage with the understanding they could support their families and have fair and safe working conditions provided by unions. With the subsequent election of a labor-unfriendly president, funding for programs was again drastically cut, and community based organizations in 2000 folded or were left scrambling to keep the lights on. Today the percentage of women in our building trades hovers around 2%.

Each change proposed by the government for the improvement of blue collared women’s situation was opposed by the more hard core of the blue-collar unions. Even as contractors felt the pressures of legal responsibility, and union leadership conceded to the logic of such goals, they did not provide the example for the rank and file to follow. At each period of government inattention, unions have continued to ignore, if not encourage, the attrition of women.

Unions, historically, have led the way to correct injustice. We’re the ones who have fought for dignity and fairness in work conditions. Frequently we have led and government had has to follow. Now it seems like government is supposed to lead and unions are supposed to follow. Who knows about the conditions of us, the workers who wake at 5:00am every morning to hang the bang the steel better than us? Who knows about who it is that works and who doesn’t? What safety conditions need to be enforced, and what becomes more of a hazard when others meddle with the regulation of tried and true practice? Who is supposed to lead--them or us? Let us be proud to be ironworkers who make room for those that want to work and stand with us. Even as other unions progress slowly, let us stand at the forefront and embrace our future and our history.

Despite the entry of women into our locals in the 70s, there is not one notable picture of a female ironworker in the 100th Anniversary History of the Iron Workers. Rosie the Riveter has been given some attention—but her visage is all but forgotten except as a part of the distant past.

Some apprenticeship instructors tell their female ironworkers that the trade is rough, so suck it up. There is no support for women’s efforts, and no acknowledgement that they are entering a field as an underdog in adverse conditions. We’re supposed to accept the fact that not only are we entering one of the most challenging construction fields, not only does our safety equipment not fit, and that we have to work twice as hard to make up for our smaller size and strength, but we have to re-train all the men around us to treat us like co-workers, like human beings. New women have no one to turn to for advice or help. They aren’t directed to anyone who has experienced what they are likely to experience. I’ve always enjoyed talking about the trade to my fellow male workers, but even those that understand the best don’t fully realize what women go through. And though I talk to my female friends about the trade, most haven’t a clue as to what construction life is about.

Over thirty years after the first women have entered our ranks, many potential leaders have been finding positions in other fields: Joyce Harris in BuildingC3, Randy Loomans as Director of Governmental Affairs for the Operating Engineers Local 302, Felicia Battley of Boston’s Women in the Building Trades. Many other feisty leaders are retiring: Mary Michels, Jan Jenson, Pam Green, Kelly Easley.

After completing three years of apprenticeship, it cannot be denied that any worker has earned her place to work in our union. Personally I had thought myself that with journey-level status, I would gain a modicum of respect. I have discovered to my disappointment that this is not true. Each job is still a proving ground, a “re-training” of the men we work with to respect our strength and skill. Sometimes it’s easier, because the longer we’re in, the more people we know. Sometimes it’s not, because our reputations are taken as a challenge--especially if we are good at doing what we do, and normally we should be regarded as doing the union proud. Women often find less respect as they gain in experience, and are mocked and harassed on the job even more harshly as they reach for retirement. True, not all women are cut out to be ironworkers, but truth be told, not all men are either. The women who have pioneered and endured should be given the job of leading the way for others, providing mentorship and not be forced into obscurity.

We are losing trained journey-level workers. For women losing our role models is especially tragic, since we need them more than ever. Our energy is redirected from fighting for better work conditions, job site safety or respect for all, towards fighting within our ranks. I found for reasons of survival and my own self-respect that I had no choice but to prioritize and hold protecting myself and fighting for my sisters above acting exclusively for my local at large. I will however make the argument that acting on behalf of my sister ironworkers benefits the union at large. Although if you, my union asks, I will always be there for you, my union, as the union should be there for women too.

And when the union is there for women, the results are good. Lee Newgent as apprenticeship coordinator of Seattle local 86 was actually disappointed in only recruiting 6.5% female apprentices. This is the highest female recruitment level I’ve ever heard of. He is so confident with his program and the support of his membership that his daughter has entered into the program. How is it that so many other locals continue to insist that it is not necessary to even look into how or why they aren’t attracting more women to their trade? Can we not see that this might be a symptom of larger problems within our organization based on “brotherhood?”

For this reason, we women ironworkers must have the support of the representatives here in this room, the leaders of our membership. The standards must be set by people responsible and with the understanding that this is for the betterment of the entire union.

I would like to present to you a demand: The women ironworkers demand from the union only what the union insists is necessary from contractors: a safe work place, the opportunity to perform one’s job free from harassment, and respect and dignity afforded union members. We invoke the right to organize

I Jeanne Park delegate from local 377 in San Francisco, CA would like the Ironworkers International to make a verbal commitment to support Women entering the Ironworker Industry and to mail a letter from the General Executive Board to the locals expressing this support.

USW: Statement of Policy on Sexual Harassment (found at “We have democratically passed tough, meaningful policies at our Conferences and conventions and negotiated such policies to protect our members. They are not just words. We take them seriously. In addition to cooperation and understanding mutual respect must be the basis of interaction among trade unionists. The USW will neither tolerate nor condone behavior from its employees or from others doing business on USW property, such as vendors, that is likely to undermine the dignity or self-esteem of an individual, or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. One form of harassment that is particularly demeaning and intimidating is sexual harassment and the following policy shall apply to allegations of such harassment. …Some forms of harassment may not violate the law. For example, harassment allegations concerning an International employee and a Local Union member would normally not affect the member's employment or working environment. But such harassment does violate the basic principles of the union. The USW considers sexual harassment of any kind a serious offence. Complaints of harassment in the workplace and at USW activities will be investigated. This policy is based upon a desire to mediate resolutions of complaints in an amicable and non-adversarial manner. Because, in most cases, the individuals involved are both members of our union, emphasis will be placed on resolving complaints informally in the first instance. Where such resolution is not possible, a formal complaint can be processed. A substantial complaint will result in appropriate action, up to and including termination of employment for USW employees. All complaints will be handled in a confidential manner and all formal complaints should be directed to the International President. ….”These are two principles that are fundamental to the trade union movement: human rights and solidarity. Harassment strikes at the heart of both. AS trade unionists we must work to protect rights, not take them away. Trade union principles prohibit us from infringing on the human rights of others, and oblige you to stand with them to protect rights when others attack them…. From Women of Steel: Female Blue-Collar Workers in the Basic Steel Industry by Kay Deaux and Joseph C. Ullman

“Chapter 5: Studying Women of Steel”

p. 66: Objectives of the Research: At the most general level, we wanted to find out everything we could about6 the situation for women in the steel mills. As most researchers know however, such global interests need to be focused…Moving from our general concern with women in the steel mills and the effects of affirmative action consent decrees, we formulated several specific questions to be pursued in detail.

1. Have the consent decrees had a noticeable effect on the hiring patterns for women in the steel industry? The steel industry consent decrees were signed in the spring of 1974. Our study began in 1979; approximately five years after those agreements had been reached. One might not expect to see a sharp rise immediately following the agreements, given the time necessary for recruitment and possible training of this new segment of the labor force. Nonetheless, after five years it should be possible to assess changes in employment patterns and to determine whether women were being hired in increasing numbers and whether they were staying in the labor force once hired. Further, comparison of employment figures within different departments and job classifications should provide a more detailed picture as to where women were entering and how they were progressing. Such a detailed analysis should also allow assessment of the degree of movement by women into apprenticeship programs and craft occupations, areas that were specifically targeted by the consent decree. 2. Are there any specific costs associated with an increased effort to hire women in the industry? Our question here was whether the recent practice of hiring more women carries a price tab. If women have not traditionally applied for steel mill jobs, then how are they encouraged to do so now? Are there any additional costs involved in finding women who are interested and in recruiting them for mill employment? Once women are hired, are there other coast factors involved? Does it require additional funds to train women, perhaps compensating for skills that they did not develop in earlier years? Other areas of potential cost that we wanted to consider were turnover and absenteeism. In this case, the loss of worker hours could affect the costs of the industry less directly, but would have an impact nonetheless. Finally at the most global level, we might question whether the overall productivity of the steel industry is affected by an increase in women workers. IOF women are not as capable, as some have claimed, then overall productivity should decrease, given a constant number of workers. 3. What problems do women encounter as they begin to work in the steel industry? Possible barriers that women might encounter could be either internal or external in nature (O'Leary, 1974). Internal barriers are those that the woman herself may bring to the situation. For example, some research has shown that women generally have less confidence in their ability to perform tasks, particularly those jobs or tasks that have traditionally been associated with men (Crandall, 1969; Deaux, 1976; Lenney, 1977). Other writers have argued that women actually fear success-that they are afraid to do well because such success will bring them ostracism from friends and colleagues, cause men to shun them, and result in a general loss of femininity (Horner, 1972). Such psychological characteristics, if they are indeed pervasive, might cause women to avoid job settings in which men have been traditionally preeminent, or to perform poorly once they enter these arenas. At a somewhat less psychological level, background and lack of relevant training can serve as internal barriers. Where as many men grow up learning how to fix cars and lawnmowers, taking vocational courses in electricity and mechanics, and being generally familiar with tools and machines, women typically have less experience in these areas. Deficits in these kinds of experiences, similar to many of the task requirements in the steel mills, may serve as a handicap or internal barrier to women's performance in the mills. Yet another potential barrier for women is a lesser degree of physical strength. Work in the steel mills often invokes images of “John Henry, the steel-driving man,” who flexes muscles, lifts massive weights, and sweats profusely in the heat of the blast furnace. Such an image is far removed from the stereotypical conception of women as frail, dainty, and clean. Moreover, there is little argument that women on the average are not as strong as men (Hogan, 1979). Although the specific ration of strength between the sexes differs according to the particular muscle group, in each case it is clear that the average man has greater strength than the average woman. More directly, a recent study conducted with steel workers has found significant performance differences between male and female workers on a variety of strength-related tasks, such as lifting 75-pound bags, carrying jackhammers, and moving loaded wheelbarrows (Arnold, Rauschenberger, Soubel, & Guion, 1982). To the extent that physical strength is an important aspect of steel mill job performance, the woman would be at a clear disadvantage, lacking the muscles and pounds to do the job as well as the average male worker. Equally important in considering the possible problems of women in the steel mills are external barriers. External barriers are those blocks in the institution or the immediate work situation that confront any woman whatever her won personality, desires, and abilities. Discriminatory hiring policies are one obvious example. If women are not given an equal opportunity to apply for steel mill jobs, or if screening measures are used that unfairly favor men (criteria that are not, in the current legal jargon, bona fide occupational qualifications), then they will not find their way into mill jobs. The physical nature of the jobs can be considered in this context as well. Specific demands of the jobs-whether they be in terms of strength, endurance, or resistance to temperature extremes-may serve as barriers for some potential employees. In addition, particular tools may have been designed for men and may not be as suitable3 for a female employee. The interpersonal context can provide another set of important external barriers. At the supervisory level, foremen may discriminate in their jobs assignment, refusing to assign women to those jobs that carry more responsibility and that provide a path to more advance positions. Supervisors of training (the journeymen in the craft occupations) may not provide women with the instruction necessary to learn a new job or skill. Supervisors and male workers alike may provide an unfavorable climate for women. Negative attitudes may be conveyed through words and gestures, by statements about the incompatibility of women and steel mills, or by professed beliefs in the home as women's proper place. More directly, male coworkers may directly express antagonism, engage in unusual hazing procedures, or make women the brunt of foul jokes and unwarranted pranks. Even more seriously, sexual harassment can be a critical issue. The possible existence of such barriers-either internal or external-needs to be documented in order to understand how blue-collar women function in traditionally male settings. 4. Has the hiring of women affected the ability of the industry to meet other affirmative action goals?..... 5. How do the women themselves view their jobs as blue-collar steel workers? As we noted in Chapter 2, there is considerable disagreement as to what kinds of jobs women want and what characteristics they want those jobs to have. Blue-collar work, particularly in the steel industry, has not been a traditional choice for women. What kinds of women are now in the steel industry, taking advantage of newly created opportunities? Knowing more about the likes and dislikes, hopes and misgivings of this selected group of women can furnish important insights into women workers as a whole.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, also recently published a survey showing that 88 percent of those women [in construction] had experienced sexual harassment on the job
Women at War With America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era by D'Ann Campbell P.110 “Making Way for Rosie” “…The vicious circle was at work. With so little opportunity, few women prepared for supervisory jobs; with few role models and no support networks, those who did get promoted lacked the knack of dealing with subordinates.” P.120 For some women the factory environment remained an unpleasant work experience….But others discovered their talent for mechanical work and loved the job. They felt a sense of accomplishment that extended beyond patriotism and paycheck. “I'd be the only one that would be doing it so I just felt like I really had something.” “You knew why you were tired. You knew that it was a healthy tired and that you produced something that made you feel this way.” “I think it showed me that a woman could work in different jobs other than say an office which you ordinarily expect a woman to be in,” and “I think it just really opened up…another field of thought, another viewpoint on life in general.” p. 124 The characteristics of the new workers required factories to redesign many tasks. As one foreman explained, “The real difference between men and women is in the ability to lift and carry. But we all know that jobs can be broken down so that some of the heavy work is eliminated or that mechanical devices can be employed.”…The advent of women also forced many factories to make long overdue safety adjustments. The improvements benefited all workers, men and women. As one foreman explained,” by making machines simpler for women and designing them for women as far as we possibly can, we make it safer for all workers and gain more in production.” Charlotte Carr, assistant deputy chairman of the War Manpower Commission, reported that many foremen confessed to her that “these are machines we always knew we ought to guard, and now we are guarding them.” Male workers used to the environment often ignored safety practices with the fatalistic attitude that if a hammer was going to drop on their heads they could not stop it. Others smoked around inflammable materials. “It was against the law, but they did.” It seems likely that the arrival of the sensitive, safety conscious women raised the level of safety practices, if not the consciousness, of men. …The entry of women into formerly all-male preserves raised issues of courtesy and morality. Women workers were often joked about or subjected to constant whistling. In one Detroit plane factory, the foreman had to move women because the men were wasting so much time “whistling and ogling.” Flora Chavez explained the strategy at Lockheed. “The best thing was, we just banded together and gave them a hard time, too, by grouping together…They couldn't get just one.”…As a rule, the more women in a department, the less whistling. While most men did not insult the new women workers, they did not necessarily accept them any more than the whistlers did. As one housewife commented, “the men don't' like 'em there.” Although women in factory work never suffered the slanders that women in the military did, the harassment they received was a clear signal that the men did not want them there. P.129-110 The biggest difference between male and female workers was not in their physical ability but in their attitude toward work. Men and women revealed different interests, needs, and problems…Supervisors discovered that women workers were more likely to admit mistakes and ask for help. They responded well to praise and poorly to the brusque and profane criticism usually given to men. Women underwent greater physical changes than men as the exercise of new muscles caused soreness and excessive fatigue lead to menstrual irregularity. Special exercises and careful coaching kept new women workers from becoming discouraged and suffering the psychological complaints that were as debilitating as physiological ones. Women were more likely than men to become unhappy in the early days of employment if they did not make what they considered proper progress almost immediately in learning a job. Apparently, ”women learn more slowly than men, because they learn meticulously.” Another foreman suggested, “men may like a job but not like their supervisors or co-workers, but this is not true of women.” Special handbooks on how to handle women workers soon found a place on the personnel manager's shelf. One book counseled supervisors to “treat the women war workers as you would treat your mother or daughter or sister.” Another warned that women must have a “damn good foreman.” But the most revealing suggestion of all, pointing out the basic similarities between all novices, was a handbook warning that “women must be supervised as men should be.” “Sisterhood vs. the Brotherhoods” p. 144-145 Most women who entered factory employment during the war soon learned that they were required to join and pay dues to a union in order to keep their jobs. The unions spent little energy explaining to women the benefits of membership and made even less effort to learn what special problems women had and how they could help. Understandably, the allegiance of most women to the unions was never as strong as that of the older, voluntary male members, many of who remembered well the bitter strikes of the 1930s. “The women in our plant have never belonged to a union before, “ one Ohio leader noted. “They have walked into the best wages inn the area-the best conditions. They never had to struggle for this.” The hostile unions at first resisted female union membership and then tried to keep women from securing traditionally male positions. These reactions reflected rank-and-file male opinion even more than leadership opinion. In August 1942, for example, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders (AFL) held a referendum on whether women should be admitted to their union. Although the national union approved the innovation, local unions in critical defense areas opposed it by as much as 5 to 1 (Seattle local 104) and 3 to 1 (Seattle local 568)… The relationships of co-workers in a mixed labor force were often very delicate and occasions for friction. Men feared women, resented their lack of experience, worried that they would take and never release men's jobs or that companies would hire cheaper women in place of men. They complained when women obtained special privileges and considerations, such as longer lunches, more rest periods, seats, special lifting devices, clean toilets, and less night work. Employers, like one New York shipyard executive, did not lessen the tension by remarking, we'll begin with the women, and then maybe later we can have hot lunches for the men too. Indeed, there were no reports during the war of formal or informal meetings between the exes to come to some understanding. Management, union, and government were aware of the problem, but, not knowing any quick and easy solutions, they did nothing at all. As more and more men were drafted, management increasingly hired women for traditionally male positions. The antagonism toward women workers escalated…An aircraft worker recalled the harassment encountered by the first women in war plants. “I never walked a longer road in my life than that to the tool room. The battery of eyes that turned on my jittery physique, the chorus of 'Hi, sisters' and 'tsk-tsk' soon had me thinking: 'Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm not just another human. Maybe I'm from Mars.' p. 157-158 “Two fundamental conflicts separated the women from the unions. First, the rank-and-file men held strong views on the proper role of women, which the female invasion of the factories violated. One view was rooted in their notion of family roles. The husband should be head of the household and the only breadwinner…. “A complementary viewpoint among many men went beyond family roles to the basic notion of masculinity. Hard physical labor defined manhood. If a woman did the same work, the man was not as masculine as he could be. 'The are taking the man out of a man.' Masculinity could be manifested through physical prowess, field sports, heavy drinking, and strong swearing. The men did not want any women to try to match them. “ p. 161 “Forty years later, both labor leaders and women workers have been only partly successful in securing their long-term goals. Women have increasingly entered the labor force, but have not achieved the same wages as men workers. Despite equal opportunity and affirmative action laws, women have gained only the slimmest foothold in such traditionally hostile male bastions as construction, automotive repair, engineering, mining, railroads, police, and fire fighting. Unions have barely managed to maintain their strength in static or declining blue0collar sectors, and have been unable to make substantial gains in eh newer fields dominated by women workers…Both union leaders and women workers have filed to take advantage of the challenge and opportunities provided by World War II. This legacy, and inability to work in tandem, ahs continued to haunt both groups, even after federally mandated equal opportunity rules have become commonplace and union leaders have tried to present a more favorable image to women. IT may be a long time before union leaders learn how to answer requests such as the one from a UAW local in Battle Creek, Michigan, plaintively asking in 1944 for ideas on 'how to prove to them that the Union is as much theirs as it is the men's'” “The War and Beyond” p. 221 “The labor unions, cresting in size and political power, yet fearful that postwar reaction would sweep away their astounding new gains, distrusted and even feared women….the men who ran the unions were so certain that women were inferior workers that they figured companies would not displace men if they had to pay women the same wage. Blinded by a historic shop-floor sense of male supremacy, and fearful for their sudden gains, most unions refused to take advantage of the opportunity to embrace a major element of the labor force…. “Management, long accustomed to the luxury of picking from a surfeit of qualified male job applicants, discovered by 1942 that women would have to be hired in large numbers, trained, and supervised if war contracts were to be filled on time. The federal government offered some generalized advice and lavish publicity, and provided some vocational training, but had little direct influence on how women should be handled. The chief state contribution was suspension of 'protective' legislation for the duration. The unions, abjuring any direct involvement, divided in their response to these ninety-day wonders. The unions failed even to educate their men on such elemental matters as sexual harassment and the common courtesies of the workplace.” p. 222 “…Women, furthermore, were typically more dissatisfied with unequal burdens caused by home duties. They responded to bad conditions not by voice but by exit-switching jobs or returning to the home.” Women were told to vacate their positions for veterans, ignoring the fact that there were female veterans of WWII.
Women: 1990s: We'll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction by Susan Eisenberg Presidential Executive Order: From p. 19 “Pioneering” The civil rights act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment. The next year President Johnson also signed Executive Order 11246, prohibiting discrimination in government contraction and requiring affirmative action for minorities on federally assisted construction projects. It established a monitoring agency in the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (which later became the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs). In 1967, EO 11246 was amended by Executive Order 11375 to include women. But OFCC [P] set specific goals only for the hiring of minorities, not for women. In 1976, a consortium of women's groups from across the country sued the U.S. Department of Labor for failing to provide the required affirmative action. The ultimate result was that on April 7, 1978, President Carter issued affirmative action regulations (41 CFR 60) that expanded Executive Order 11246 to cover “all construction contractors and sub-contractors who hold a Federal or federally assisted construction contract or subcontract in excess of $10,000.” The regulation set “initial” goals and timetables “intended to provide immediate equal employment opportunity for women in the construction industry.” They started at 3.1 percent and escalated by 1981 to 6.9 percent. These were never quotas or preferences, which would have been illegal. Explanations made clear that the jobsite goals would increase as more: women journeypersons and advanced apprentices” were available. These goals applied to the contractor's entire workforce, including workers not on the federally funded site and established that the “hours of minority and female employment and training must be substantially uniform throughout the length of the contract, and in each trade.” A committee was to recommend more permanent goals and timetables. Further provisions required contractors to: “ensure and maintain a working environment free of harassment, intimidation, and coercion at all sites, and in all facilities at which the Contractor's employees are assigned to work.” “where possible assign two or more women to each construction project.” provide non-segregated facilities except where “separate or single-user toilet and necessary changing facilities shall be provided to assure privacy between the sexes.” hire among racial groups relative to the racial make-up of the population. On May 12, 1978, the Department of Labor additionally set out goals and timetables for apprenticeships (29 CFR 30), establishing that each new class of apprentices should include females “at a rate which is not less than 50 percent of the proportion women are of the workforce”-or roughly 20-25 percent of each class. These regulations were also extremely detailed about procedures to be followed to ensure equity. The regulations were the result of aggressive pressure from the women's movement. The Department of Labor, involved since 1971 in outreach efforts to bring women into “nontraditional” jobs, concluded that voluntary affirmative action plans had not been successful, whereas those with specific goals and timetables had. Local goals for hiring women were already in place in Seattle, Madison, Wisconsin, and California. By 1983 women were 1.8 percent of the construction workforce.
Equal Rights Advocate: Winter 2001

“ERA Pours the Foundation for Equality in the Construction Trade” (PDF available through: Even today in 2001, women's participation in particular industries is relatively obsolete because of deeply entrenched patterns of discrimination that enforce and perpetuate the existence of “men-only” jobs…. The passage of welfare reform in 1996 forced thousands of women into the workforce; most women were required to accept the first available job, which primarily were low-wage, unstable, unskilled jobs that did not provide the women with the means to move and remain out of poverty. Welfare rights and women's rights organizations, including ERA, advocated for the development and implementation of effective welfare reform policies that support skill enhancement and higher wage jobs. One such strategy was to encourage, train and assist women in obtaining nontraditional occupations, including those in the construction trade. The construction trade, unlike many other occupations that predominantly employ non-college educated workers, provides relatively high hourly wages, overtime opportunities, union membership, booming growth, and opportunities for skill development. …ERA's impact litigation will focus on the practices of one or all of the industry players-the apprenticeship programs, the unions and the contractors-all of which engage in discriminatory behavior against women. …Women who have overcome the barriers to training and gained access into the “brotherhood” are finding that in a post Proposition 209 California, women need not apply. The attitude of many employers is 'we're just not interested in hiring women, and we don't have to.' Even employers who previously trained and hired women, have retreated to the discriminatory practice of denying highly qualified women jobs, solely based on their gender. Women on the job face another host of problems. Similar to women's experiences in apprenticeship programs, they tend to be assigned menial tasks unrelated to their trade. Tradeswomen also face sever sexual harassment, denial of basic equipment and bathrooms, pay inequity, a lack of overtime opportunities and a hostile environment that can be tantamount to life-threatening situations.

State building trades website ( The need for these workers is well documented. The continuing California construction boom will need nearly 30,000 new skilled workers every year for the next decade. With nearly $40 billion in bond issues for construction on the ballot this year, the need for highly-trained people will only increase. Today, for every four people who leave the trades, only one new trained person is supplied by current apprenticeship programs. In the first six months of the grant, staff has traveled throughout the state interviewing interested parties and constituency groups. These include Building Trades Councils, county departments of education, Workforce Investment Boards, ROPs, vocational schools, One Stops, high schools, and local conservation corps. Collaborations have also been developed with the new California Department of Workforce and Labor, California Department of Education, the California Community College System, the California Womens Commission, the University of California Labor and Employment Institute at UCLA and Berkeley and many pre-apprenticeship programs such as JobLinks and School-to-Career programs. A major task of the grant has been to develop data about how these many diverse programs operate and how they can be coordinated to maximize services to an equally diverse population. This data currently does not exist in a centralized format. At the California Apprenticeship Commission meeting in Palm Springs, October 23, the BC3 staff rolled out the first products of the grant. The video, Women Can Build California was shown and new brochures and posters distributed. The brochures and posters are in English and Spanish. The first set of marketing materials is being mailed to Building Trades Councils, Construction and Building Trades unions, High School districts, One Stops, the media, apprenticeship programs and other interested groups. Over 4,000 marketing kits were distributed in this first round. A series of videos, CDs, public service announcements and materials will follow in the next year, expanding public awareness of the outstanding opportunities available to our citizens. On-site videos have been filmed at the Carquinez Bridge, Disney Center in Los Angeles and the San Diego Padres baseball park. The interactive website is scheduled to go online in August, 2003. As vocational training has declined in the public school system, fewer young people have been trained for jobs. More important, the BC3 grant will carry the message to young people and their parents that outstanding careers are available that provides high-quality training, good wages from the beginning, and some of the best health and pension benefits in the nation.

* Every year, more than 440,000 Americans become apprentices, receiving training through approximately 37,000 apprenticeship programs. Source: U.S. Department of Labor

* The construction industry will hire about 250,000 new workers each year for the next seven years. Only about 150,000 new workers will come into the trades, creating a continuing shortage of skilled workers. Source: U.S. Department of Labor

* The construction industry employs approximately 800,000 workers statewide. By 2010 the construction industry will need approximately 200,000 new workers. Source: California Employment Development Department

* In 2003 construction industry in Sacramento County employs 35,000 workers. By 2006 the industry will employ almost 40,000 construction workers, a 15% increase in demand for the workers. Source: California Employment Development Department

* For every four people who leave the trades, by retirement or otherwise, only one new person is supplied by apprenticeship programs to enter the trades. Source: University of California

* The California Department of Education tells us that out of every 100 students in our high schools, 30 will drop out before graduation. Of the 70 who are left only 21 will go on to college. Of those who attend our community colleges, half will drop out in the second semester. Yet, all of our state counseling resources are geared for the few who will actually finish college. Source: California Department of Education

* Students in state approved apprenticeship programs start out at 40% of the prevailing wage in their area. This translates to about $12-15.00 per hour, plus benefits while they begin the program. That rate goes up each year until they turn out as journeymen. The average craft journeyman makes about $28.00 per hour in this state plus health and pension benefits. Many trades pay in excess of $75.00 per hour with overtime. Source: State Building and Construction Trades Council of California

* The average age of a construction worker is 47 years old. Source: State Building and Construction Trades Council of California

Date: June 24, 2006 9:23:03 AM PDT To: Subject: RE: 2006 Ironworkers International Convention Hey Jeanne, I unnderstand this whole situation so well. I have had problems at work with guys alot. My first job lasted a year and a bit but for three months I went through hell because my foreman claimed to have fallen in love with me and became hostile when he found out I was dating an ironworker who I am now getting married to. He would openly yell at me an call me all kind of names even getting physical at times. My steward got involved and suggested I just ignore him, move to another gang, and forget it. The super on the job came over and told me to forget it or he would have to let one of us go and it wouldn't be the forman. It eventually worked itself out but it did lead to me getting layed off. So many times I have sat in the trailer and took the men teasing me or talking nasty. On my current job my union steward is the worst one because he sits there and laughs along with them. He told one guy that he was a disgrace to our hall because he didn't get into a girl on sites pants. He laughed when I told him one guy walked up to me and asked if I took it in the ass. I try to deal with it and never say anything because I don't want to lose my job. Last week even my super was telling my I need to have more sex because I made a comment about wanting to lose a few pounds when I was offered a chocolate bar. I know we are the ones that picked this as a career and we have to expect some things but enough is enough. A women labourer on my job site was invited out by a few boilermakers to a BBQ a few weeks back. She made the mistake of going and was drugged and raped by four of them. They even took pictures. It's all the talk on the jobsite these days and the talk is that she's a slut and wanted it.She has to come to work every day and put up with all the psst. psst. and snikering. Not to mention those guys still being on some of the same jobsites. I copied the email you sent to me so she can read it. I myself and many others keep our mouths shut for fear of losing our jobs. I know sometimes I have to fight to hold back tears because I don't want a crybaby reputation. The sad thing is that I don't get it as bad as some because John is a well respected ironworker. The guys who do respect him will stand up for me or let him know when other guys step out of line. John is not afraid to do something about it and has knocked a guy out in the past. I think that everyone should be educated on sexual conduct in the workplace. Every once in a while companies should have to bring in someone to educate the workers on what is aceptable behaviour. They bring in instructors for C.P.R. and First Aid, W.H.I.M.I.S., Confined Space Training, and so much more. Why not have mandatory education on sexual conduct and behaviour in the workplace. A class that will educated the men and women on what is acceptable. Then the women would know their rights and what they can do and the men will be informed as well. Self defence classes might be a good idea too. Anyways I have a fence to build today so Good Luck!! I hope it goes well. Talk to you later and take care!! Tie Off, Jamie
From: Mary Michels < > Date: July 2, 2006 8:51:54 PM PDT To: Jeanne Subject: work Hi Jeanne, YOUR E-MAIL ABOUT THE CONVENTION WAS TERRIFIC. you've BEEN DOING YOUR HOMEWORK AND IT SHOWS. I REMEMBER IN THE MID EIGHTIES MY FRIEND Cathy and I would check out job sites that were government mandated, like post offices and federal buildings. We would ask why they didn't have any women on the job site. We were told to put our names on the generals list, and they would give it to the I.W. subcontractors. But Cathy and I were always able to get work. This was a general principal thing. We both knew there were women out there that could use a good meaningful job. One or two things happened when we went on one of these adventures. 1) The general would give our names to the sub and tell them we were bitching about not getting hired.The federal compliance also called giving our names that we were complaining about not getting hired. Cathy and I didn't want the job, we just wanted a women out there. Both of us has always been able to find work on our own. We had employers that would hire us. The word got back to us, the I.W. is a close knit group, who like to gossip, and we were the topic for a while. Trouble makers. 2) The federal compliance people were sometimes very open with us . I was told they didn't have the money , to enforce this type of affirmative action program. It was taken away when Reagan became president. The laws were there but no money to hire some one to enforce it. The first compliance people, I think I have there business cards. What rats.The # 2 was really nice, and told me how it was. I gave up trying. Now California voted in that law a few years ago, that got rid of affirmative action. California did not want it. I was told years ago that my union 433 does not get involved in those matter I always hustled because I have always been picky about the work I did. Who I worked for. After my apprentice ship program there was a knew group of business agents, and it only took them once to sent me to the shit of all jobs,that I then went and got my own. They might of even meant well, I kind of thing they probably did. Maby. I dont think most care. The good old boys. On the happier side of things I am loving my retirement. Still going to the occupational center for computer classes. It's nice having a check deposited into my checking account every month. Today I painted one of my doors in my house. I uses oil paint. I love doing it, but my painting , well it leaves a little to be desired. Take care Mary

From: Jan "high pockets" Date: July 8, 2006 12:00:17 PM PDT To: girlofsteel
Subject: Re: one of the good guys.... Thank you, Lee for your good comments and from the other gals on this list and myself, we ALL thank you! I got into the ironworkers in North Dakota in 1976. They stuckme in the rod patch for THREE years, hoping to get rid of "that broad." I fooled 'em and outworked most of the guys on the job. When I pointed out to the BA and apprentice coordinator that apprentices were only supposed to do 1,500 hours of rods and I had OVER 3,000, I decided it was TIME to put me somewhere else! So they told me I was going "up top" on the powerhouse to work on the boiler iron. I said NO WAY am I stupid enough to do that with NO prior knowledge of ironworking, much less off the ground more than 90 feet (we built 90 ft. firewalls out of double wall rebar). I said if he was such a damn idiot to do that to ANYONE, especially me, I would take him out back and we'd have a little hand to face discussion about that... since I was nearly a foot taller than him and had been working rods for 3 years and he could obviously see my muscles, he declined and put me on the hook on crew and working up with the building! When my daughter got into the apprenticeship in San Francisco in 1983 they tried the same tactics with her and I got into the apprentice coordinators face so bad he turned white! When I came to San Fran. in 1980 Natalie was the only woman in that local (she was on the permanent Golden Gate Bridge crew). I went to EVERY union meeting for the 10 years I was there and didn'tlet them get away with much BS about women. I've known Dan Hellvig since he was a snot nose kid and always thought he was a pretty good guy. Now I'd like to go kick him damn but!!! If I have to make a special trip from NC to CA to do that - I'll invite you all! My daughter is now in Tacoma living with Mom's 91 yewar old sister and working in the railroad yard maintenance crew. She WOULD like to get back to working iron again (I think). In fact, there's a big job coming up in Wenatchee (one of the clients in the doctor's office I now work in here in NC is an engineer and said the job will start this fall and last about 3-5 years). Maybe some of you'd like to go work in a sane environment for a while till we get Dan hellvig and the international guys in DC plumbed up...! At 63 (next) week, I'm still up to kicking some butt!! Jan Jenson JIW 1021600 25 years and retired - NOT retarded or scared of anyone/thing!!

From: Linda Wallis < > Date: July 10, 2006 6:57:11 PM PDT
To: girlofsteel
Subject: Re: one of the good guys....
Jeanne, One thing for sure, you're fighting a losing battle. I just want out!!!! I am freaking out about being 56 ans still in this shit!! It seems the longer you're in, the les respect you get because of all the younger male morons. I give up!!!

Campbell, D'Ann. Women at War With America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1984.

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Deaux, Kay, and Joseph C. Ullman. Women of Steel: Female Blue-Collar Workers in the Basic Steel Industry. New York, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1983.

Ferguson, Trudi C. with Madeline Sharples. Blue Collar Women. Liberty Corner, New Jersey: New Horizon Press, 1994.

Martin, Molly. Hard-Hatted Women: Stories of Struggle and Success in the Trades. Seattle: The Seal Press, 1986.

Paap, Kris. Working Construction: Why White Working-Class Men Put Themselves- And the Labor Movement-in Harm's Way. Ithaca and London: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2006.

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