Unions play big role at annual Women in Trades Fair

More than 1,000 women, girls and craftsworkers attended the 11th annual Women In Trades Fair May 3 at the Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 Training Center in Tualatin.

"We're exhausted, but it's been a great turnout and a great weekend," said Connie Ashbrook, executive director of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., coordinator of the annual event.

On Thursday and Friday, May 1-2, high school and middle school students toured the facility to learn more about opportunities in high-paying jobs in the construction, building, mechanical, technical and utility trades.

On Saturday, the fair was open to the general public.

Employers, unions and women apprentices and journeypersons were on hand to offer workshops, demonstrations and to provide informational material about their respective trades.

"We told women of the apprenticeship opportunities, work opportunities and benefits of the union," said Cindy Franke, an Executive Board member of Electrical Workers Local 125 who is a foreman for the Bonneville Power Administration.

Franke staffed a Local 125 booth with BPA co-worker Annie Jernberg, who later received a special recognition award from the Oregon Tradeswomen Network for Journey-level Tradeswoman of the Year.

Fairgoer Joyce Kelso of Gresham was impressed with skills involved in orbital welding shown to her by Art Cady, a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290.

"I'm interested in finding something to do. I like woodworking and I've always wanted to learn how to weld," Kelso said.

Unions were everywhere at the fair, with exhibits and workshops. Several union trades-women also took part in a workwear demonstration and a number of union-related women and men were recognized for outstanding achievement by the Oregon Tradeswomen Network.

Each year, Oregon Tradeswomen presents seven awards to individuals and organizations that have made a difference for women in the trades. This year's awardees were:

Advocate of the Year (Carl Sorensen Memorial Award): Betty Munsey, a retired member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290; and Quint Rahberger, apprenticeship coordinator for Operating Engineers Local 701. Munsey was the first woman plumber in the state of Oregon, entering Local 51 which later merged to form 290. She was the first woman in the country to retire as a plumber, Ashbrook said.

Apprentice Tradeswoman of the Year: Cyndy Chan of Sheet Metal Workers Local 16; and Angela Williamson of Electrical Workers Local 48.

Journey-level Tradeswoman of the Year (Barbara Walters Memorial Award): Emily Blatchford and Dana Gengler of Roofers Local 49; Anne Jernberg, a high-voltage electrician and member of IBEW Local 125; and Annalee Purdy, a limited energy electrician and IBEW Local 48 member who teaches at the Electrical Training Center.

Employer of the Year: Carol Duncan, General Sheet Metal.

Apprenticeship Committee of the Year: Sheet Metal Workers Training Trust.

Special Recognition: Bob Kimes, apprenticeship coordinator, Plumbers and Fitters Local 290.

The Barbara Walters Award is named in memory of the late Local 290 member who was a pioneer for women in non-traditional trades. The Carl Sorensen Award is named after the late Oregon director of the federal Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training who was a longtime member of IBEW Local 48.

"Even in a poor economy, things still need to be repaired, especially buildings, bridges, roads and homes, so tradeswomen have marketable skills," said Ashbrook a former member of Elevator Constructor Local 23. "The opportunities are only going to get better from here. As the baby-boomers retire, we'll see a growing demand for skilled workers, opening the door for women to enter the trades."

May 16, 2003 issue

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