c. 2010 Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council. For copies of this terrific activities book contact Megan Starr: firstname.lastname@example.org
—by Susan Eisenberg
We’re in a moment of opportunity. . . . We have a Department of Labor that wants to hear what tradeswomen think. We have benefit of both the “pioneers” (we’re still around!) and a new generation of outspoken leaders so we don’t need to repeat the past. There’s active public discussion about the economy and jobs that have a future. This weekend the AFL BCTD is –– for the first time! –– supporting a national tradeswomen’s conference. Let’s take this at face value, as serious interest from organized labor to address “the full and fair inclusion of women” into occupations where their numbers remain shockingly low. Lets get ourselves in sync and give MOVING FORWARD DRAMATICALLY our best shot!
So, how do we know forward from sideways or backwards or spin-in-circles? I’ve tried to think about what tradeswomen mean when we say, “Ignore them, they just don’t get it.” And, draw from that, our instincts for what’s worthwhile: what we need gatekeepers and our allies to “get”. I wrote down the points I consider when I’m listening to someone, and tested them out over dinner last Friday with some Boston tradeswomen. I’m counting on more feedback from the “Move the Decimal Point” workshop in Oakland. I hope you’ll weigh in, too!
6 “GETS IT” Points:
Women are Capable and Qualified: Remove the Obstacles!
If we just argue that jobs should be opened because women need the money, we give up our strongest claim, that women can do this work well when they’re given a fair chance. If we only talk about positive experiences, we’re not only in denial, but we’re contradicting the first point! We’re still at 2.5% of the workforce because of obstacles that need to be acknowledged and addressed! These ideas are inseparable. Normalizing women’s presence in the industry is 30 years overdue. We need our labor and government leaders to be outpoken and active.
Truth in Advertising!
This one hit lots of strong cords at dinner. Here’s a few. Be honest about the past record. Let women know how likely they are to be well-trained, graduate apprenticeship on time, be employed at journeylevel, be eligible for health benefits, advance, and retire with that good pension. Let them know how to improve their odds, and who they can count on as allies. And who not. Don’t call something a “pilot project” that there’s no money or intention to replicate. We need pathways that have oversight with consequences, that reach their destination, that don’t leave tradeswomen depending on luck.
Eyes on the Prize!
There are lots of good and useful things we can do. But let’s keep our agenda on “moving the decimal point”. Imagine how different other problems would be if women’s percentage of the workforce matched our interest and abilities!
Tradeswomen-Led and Grassroots-Accountable Joint Venture!
Tradeswomen need allies of all sorts — that’s obvious. But change needs to be led by and serve those who are affected. This is a labor issue.
Human Rights/Civil Rights/Solidarity!
This one hit a strong nerve at dinner, too (Boston has been ground zero of the new UBC women’s model and its “policy” plan — and we’d all been stung). Tradeswomen’s issues are strongest when placed within the larger context of human rights and civil rights. When tradeswomen’s issues are understood not only as women’s issues but high priority labor issues. When we move forward cross-trades, rather than one trade trying to beat out the others. When we reflect our full diversity. When we all stand alongside woman who are speaking up.
Stay Healthy/Have Fun!
Our first responsibility is to our own health and safety.