Opinion: There’s a bright spot for women in this pandemic: Union building trades

Opinion: There’s a Bright Spot for Women in This Pandemic: Union Building Trades
The Herald News
April 16, 2021

By Julie Hemingway, Pipefitters 537

A year into the pandemic and one thing is clear: women have disproportionately borne the brunt of caring for family members, juggling remote school and child care, underemployment and job losses. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 2.5 million women have left the U.S. workforce. Even with these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic: Women are increasingly joining the union building trades for great, family-sustaining careers.

In spite of the negative national outlook for women’s employment, the percentage of women in Massachusetts union apprenticeships is higher than ever, despite all the hardships we faced in 2020. In Boston, building trades unions have twice the national average of female apprentices. COVID-19 isn’t stopping tradeswomen from breaking barriers.

For many women, you can make the decision to further your education and receive adequate benefits and equal pay. I know because I did it. I was working dead-end jobs with no benefits after I got out of the Army — telemarketing and door-to-door sales. But 16 years ago, I made the life-changing move to join Pipefitters Local 537. After five years of the apprenticeship program, working full time and attending school, I became a Union Pipefitter with UA Local 537 Boston. Joining a union opened up my future, and I’ve never looked back.