Seattle’s Sheet Metal Local 66 has a new leadership development program which has passionately embraced the concept of trade unionism.
The journeywomen have taken the initiative to build a support network for all working women throughout the Seattle Local Union, having committed to mentor the 41 female apprentices in the current 400-member class of five-year apprentices.
Business Manager Tim Carter opened the training by outlining the importance of the program on the first day, saying “The deeper we dig into the topic of women’s rights in the workplace, the more we realize that mentoring programs for our female apprentices are long overdue; they will serve as a safe place for our female apprentices to share situations with their mentors, which will help our Business Representatives find resolutions for the issues our Sisters are facing.”
Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting success for women in the trades, and her Advocacy Program Manager, Tiffany Thompson, led a training session on the unique problems women in the trades face, including sexual discrimination and harassment.
The session touched on identifying, addressing and eliminating harassment and on the ability to identify behaviors that indicate harassment and discrimination beyond what is legally defined.
JATC Trustee and Women’s Committee Champion Vanessa Carman has been a key architect in setting this initiative in motion.
“I feel that providing a support system for our Sisters will have a huge impact on retaining our female membership,” Carman said. “Beyond that, there are many other benefits to having a mentorship program: providing support, morale, diversity and pride as well as building confidence in our future leadership.”
SMART Education Director Chris Carlough led a discussion centering around the development of mentoring and peer programs, helping the local union adopt the type of program they were going to build.
“This is more than just a class highlighting the serious issue of sexual harassment,” Carlough explained. “We are building a network of compassionate union members—both women and men—to encourage and support all of our members in their work and family life.”
“The long term goals of this program will include how to change the culture of our union to end bullying and harassment—which will make our workplaces safer, more productive and just a more decent place to work.” Carlough added.
With “work cut out for us,” members up to challenge
“I left the two days of training feeling a wide range of emotions, but most of all I felt hopeful that things will change now that our union is fully aware of the harassing environment on jobsites,” said SM Local 66 shop foreman Martha Holly.
Holly added, “Change will not happen overnight; we all know that. In the future I hope all women in our trade feel supported enough by our women’s committee to have the courage to say, Enough! We deserve to work in a respectful workplace. The women of Local 66 have our work cut out for us, but we are all up to the challenge!”
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