Kaylee Griffin, LU 196
After working a handful of non-union jobs after high school, Kaylee Griffin was organized into the Carpenters Union by a Council Representative. Griffon recently shadowed the representative team during contract negotiations so she could better understand what was happening and see what she could learn.
How long have you been in the union?
Back in high school, I took a welding class that sparked the idea of getting into the trades. For a time, I ran a few non-union jobs–working production or in an office setting–but few panned out beyond 8 months. I was doing sheet metal work out at Nike when I ran into Jeff Hartung, who told me that if I wanted to do REAL work to let him know.
One back injury later and some time off to heal, I reached out and was directed to the Pilebucks at local 196. The rest is history.
What made you decide to go on a ride-along with a Council representative?
A while ago, Desi Wright and Aron Gray had suggested I do a ride-along if I wasn’t busy at a job or school. Since I was between work and contracts in Oregon and SW Washington were a big talking point, I figured there was something I could do at the Council office.
Was there anything major you learned from the experience? Anything unexpected?
Well… I really don’t have any interest in being a Council representative after a day of tagging along. I have a newfound respect for the work they do. There’s a lot of negativity around being a rep at times–like people on sites don’t want you to be out there or they’re not sure of what to make of you being there. It’s a weird situation, where they want you to deliver info, but sometimes they’re indifferent to when you show up.
Reps do a lot of necessary work for the Council, checking in periodically on job sites and making sure working conditions are fair. Part of it is visibility, to show the contractors the Council is keeping an eye on things, but sometimes it can leave things a bit tense, as some believe a rep doesn’t show up on a job site unless there is a problem–which isn’t always the case.
Aside from reps physically visiting sites, I’ve grown to appreciate that there are text message reach outs and social posts helping to keep people in the loop. It’s an unobtrusive way for information to be passed to membership without disrupting a job site.
How has being a part of a union made a difference in your life?
While I knew about unions and the general idea surrounding them prior to joining, no one I knew was union. The shift from non-union to union has helped add stability in my life. I know that if there’s anything weird going on, I have someone I can call. It’s nice to know there’s that support. I know that no matter where I go and what company I join, I’ll have the same wages and benefits.
Have you had mentors in your career? Have you been a mentor?
Every apprentice has that job that helps shape them as an apprentice, for me that was constructing a new bridge in the Cascade Locks by the old historic highway in The Gorge. I worked on that job just a few months shy of a year, but in the process got to see the work from start to finish.
The weather was shitty. It was so shitty it was fun because of how miserable and cold and wet the conditions were. It really pushed me to realize what I could do. During that time, I learned a lot about rebar, precast concrete pilasters, girder set, and more, and I chalk much of that to the great superintendent and foreman I worked under.
Do you have advice for those starting out in their career?
Go to your local meetings and be involved. Learn about what’s going on from the people who support you. Last year I got to attend the Sisters in the Brotherhood meeting at the ITC. I got to meet so many amazing women in the trades there. I also had a chance to learn about other SIB groups across the nation and Canada.
I was given that opportunity because I consistently went to the local meetings. My president chose me because he recognized me and a lot of people had good things to say. By putting in that effort, it opened additional doors. It’s time invested and, ultimately, it pays off.