Month: November 2010


—by Susan Eisenberg

When I was hiking last May with Molly Martin in Big Sur, she raised the question of why we don’t just say that our 30+ year effort to open construction trades jobs to women has failed. Since then, I’ve been trying to sort through what I think, and all the feelings raised by Jenna Smith’s case. I have to say that my Courage-O-Meter has been swinging wildly back and forth from 0 (Totally Discouraged) to 10 (Absolutely Encouraged). What about you?

[If you’re not familiar with Jenna’s case, check out]

Jenna’s the lineworker in Eugene, Oregon who, on completion of her apprenticeship, was denied her journeycard. I’ve been hearing very similar stories over the summer from other parts of the country, of women going through three- to five-year apprenticeships and, as they’re turning the final corner, something goes wrong and they’re bumped out. The problems they face –– sexual harassment, physical assault,unfair job reports –– are not new. And the fact that many women apprentices still report repetitive job assignments that fail to provide them with full training, and that many journeylevel women report facing higher unemployment than their counterparts despite federal jobs not meeting hiring goals is all painfully OLD NEWS. Gets me feeling Totally Discouraged, a big 0!!!

On the other hand, the fact that Jenna spoke up so eloquently, that Oregon Tradeswomen’s Network was able to spread word about her case through the internet and energize and connect the tradeswomen’s movement nationally definitely rates a big 10!!

I think of how the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church finally broke through to public attention, one courageous voice at a time until the issue finally had to be addressed. Maybe these stories will accumulate enough to shift power. Or at least lay bare that that’s the issue. Not ability or interest.

But I’m concerned by the final outcome of Jenna’s case. Thrilled that she got her well-deserved journey-card and some financial settlement, but very troubled that she lost her job. Glad that there were JATC recommendataions in Oregon to prevent future situations like Jenna’s, but wondering how effective people think they are, and whether they can be applied nationally.

My Courage-O-Meter’s at 6.5 today.