A Message from EST Evelyn Shapiro
In this magazine, you’ll read about how the union has changed lives. In a country where politicians and big business actively battle against living wage work and retirement benefits, unionized construction is one of the last places where working-class, blue-collar workers can have a shot at a gainful career.
In the end, we want people who have the passion, intelligence, creativity, and grit to make it in our industry, from all walks of life.
In my career I’ve known people who’ve thrived in union construction from every walk of life: high school dropouts, PhD.’s and masters degrees, second careers, single moms, individuals supporting extended family, entrepreneurs, former gang members, formerly incarcerated, former houseless, veterans, refugees, immigrants, prom kings, high school football stars, firefighters, steelworkers, master fishers and hunters, gourmet cooks, the list could go on forever.
I always remember one of my first journeymen when I joined the union. His family had immigrated from Mexico. He didn’t talk a lot–he stayed quiet but showed an exceptional level of expertise and technique for the specialty work we were doing. When we first worked together, he spoke English softly, without a lot of confidence. After a lull in work at our company, I didn’t see him for a few years. He stayed steady, and I returned a few years later. When I returned, he was speaking English confidently and running crews on commercial jobs, emanating the confidence befitting an accomplished journeyman and foreman who excelled at his craft
Many sisters rarely had the opportunity to work with other women on the job. The first time I worked with other tradeswomen for a significant amount of time, I met two women who had just completed the Trades Related Apprenticeship Coaching (TRAC) program. If you haven’t heard of it, TRAC is a pre-apprenticeship program at the women’s correctional facility in Purdy, Washington. Steve Petermann from Carpenters Local 129 runs this program with the grace and grit it requires. Women nearing their release date have the option to join a competitive trades program that includes rigorous testing to qualify for entry into our apprenticeship programs
The two TRAC grads I worked with worked hard, had amazing attitudes, were resilient, dedicated, and funny. I became friends with both carpenter sisters from TRAC. One of the sisters, “T,” worked hard, had a fantastic attitude that brought up the spirits of the whole crew, and for the first time in my life, she taught me to laugh at myself. She completed her apprenticeship a
Carpenters have become active legislatively and have even been appointed to government, elected to office, and started non-profit organizations that help our communities
One of the first people I met when I joined the union became a city council member of Washington’s Capitol. Another became the first Latino mayor of a large Seattle suburb
I am grateful to call such a diverse group of people my union family. I am indebted to every single carpenter who has come across my path who taught me to be a carpenter and to have pride in my craft and our organization.