I have been in the construction field for 31 years as an Operating Engineer and have worked for Local 106 in Albany, New York for the past 29 years. This is a list of just some of the contractors I had the pleasure of working with:
Below is a photo of me operating a friction crane in Albany International Airport in 1996. The crane has ground modification equipment installed on the lines and the work was supervised by Hayward Baker.
The construction field was not my first choice of an occupation as I was a newly unemployed salesperson with no college background. I was very happy to find that given some know how and experience I could possibly be making allot more money than in retail or other minimum wage jobs, running heavy equipment for a living!
As a woman, I feel that the non-traditional job market can be very fulfilling and lucrative if you apply yourself and are willing to train and educate yourself. Having a good support system at home is very important, in other words, someone else to pick up the kids early or baby-sit on snow or sick days, doctor appointments and such. You also need a car that's reliable and YOU must be reliable as well. There are NO excuses on most jobs. You must be on time or early! There are many people that are relying on one another to make the whole team work efficiently and expediently. And especially if you are a UNION member we have to show that our TRAINING and EXPERIENCE and PRIDE in our work will make the whole job a more safe and more proficient and profitable one. Safety always is #1.
"Women face multiple barriers," added Ray Bramucci, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. "Apprenticeships increase women's competitiveness in the job market and we want more women to be able to benefit from them."
Nowadays, I have found that there is allot less problems from our Brother union members as they realize that there are many women that CAN DO the job as WELL as a man. They also know that there are allot of women supporting their households and they are not out there trying to take some average guys job. I have found in general that my male counterparts are more respectful and generally great to work with than when I worked in the banking trade or retail management. The point is to be as hard a worker as you can to show that you appreciate the opportunity to be out there making the same money and the same benefits as men. There are many people in general looking to make more than minimum wage but they might not have the ability or the stamina to work in this field. If you show you are willing to get into your work and apply yourself and listen to advice you will find many coworkers willing to help you. We are all in this together and we must work that way!
"The number of women in high-wage non-traditional occupations has remained unchanged over the past 20 years," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said.
I have allot to learn and I have been working as an operator for 15 years or so. The thing is with operating equipment, as with other jobs, you need experience on each piece of equipment to make you a well rounded operator. Unfortunately, sometimes you might be sent out on a black top roller for a few years in a row. Operating nothing but a roller. This is a great job but you aren't getting any other experience on equipment. The contractor is also slow to allow a novice to jump on equipment that he or she hasn't had experience on. So you have to find ways to jump on equipment in a less stressful environment, like at a dump or on a job that is still in it's groundbreaking stage. That way there are less obstacles around, above or below! The perfect scenario is that all your knowledge would come form the training school but unfortunately that is not the case. The school can teach you the basic operation and maintenance but every job is different. Also, every piece of equipment is different. Even if you get a similar loader or backhoe, the hydraulics might be slower or faster, the brakes better or worse, the steering harder or easier, the levers might even be hooked up the opposite way so a forward movement will make the boom lift instead of lower! This can be dangerous so you must accustom yourself to each and every machine once aboard and after checking for proper maintenance.
Anyone interested in sending photos or stories, please email me. I am interested in collecting photos of women operating equipment, installing electrical, plumbing, carpenters, iron workers, etc. If you can send a story along with the photos as well as contact or credit info. I am planning a page or pages dedicated to them. Click on the coffee cup and email me! Anybody that knows me knows I go nowhere without my cup!
I hope I haven't discouraged you. I'm not that experienced to be giving advice but I'd just like to give you some of my ideas on the subject. If you will be working Heavy Highway then you had better get ready for it's own set of problems. It's great to have good kidneys, I'm blessed with them, but that does not necessarily mean that you can hold for 4-5 hours at a time. You shouldn't have to, but believe me you might just end up looking for a tree or bush in the distance because there are no facilities in the area. Just because you are a woman don't expect that everyone is going to change the way things are to suit you. I agree things have gotten better but there are still times that there are no bathrooms around for Anybody! You have to learn to take that good with the bad. You also have to be able to tolerate extreme temperatures and conditions at times. Learning how to dress and keep warm or cool will be very important. Some days just staying dry will be the task. Wearing proper equipment for each job is very important and as you work you will find the things that work best for you.
I have already mentioned that having experience on multiple pieces of equipment is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself employable and called back year after year or asked to Hold. Being asked to hold by an employer means that you are not calling the union hall to put you back on the list of unemployed operators. You are waiting for that specific employer to call you back. That could be a great thing if it is a definite call back at a specified time but if things are slow for that employer or they do not get the jobs they were forecasting you may be home waiting for longer than expected. If you than call the hall, you will then be placed on the list. This could delay your going out for months. At our hall if you are called out for more than 21 days on a job you are than placed on the bottom of the list. But remember if your the only one holding a hazmat card or a crane license or can operate a dozer grading you will jump to the top if a call for that specific item is needed.
There are a number of ways to make you more employable other than the amount of machines you can operate. If you can apply yourself and become an expert operator on certain pieces of equipment such as large excavating hoes, cranes, grade bulldozer, grader, gradall, Vermeer trenchers, large milling machines, etc. If you are especially qualified on certain pieces of equipment you may find that you will never have to hop from one machine to another on a job. At least not on a daily basis.
Excellent Crane operators are revered for their experience and knowledge and still hold that Respect that Operating Engineers used to get from everyone. I am finally starting to see how differently that crane operators are treated. It' s not "do this or do that!" It's "when you get a chance could you...? That is a great difference and one that I will not take advantage of. I am finally enjoying the fruits of my labor and experience. I am proud to be both an Operating Engineer and a lady.
Nowadays, everyone is trying to jump on equipment and act like it's no big deal but only the seasoned operator knows the experience he has under his belt is the deciding factor for both performance and safety. Also, all trades should respect one anther's individual job specific and not attempt to take others bread and butter from them. Everyone is an expert in their own field and THAT IS THE PURPOSE for the SPECIFIC TRADES! Just because Anyone can shovel doesn't mean we should pick one up and start digging! Just because everyone knows how to drive doesn't mean that we should jump in a truck and start rolling! Remember to be respectful of others jobs and they will be respectful of yours.
"My friends, it is SOLIDARITY of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing."
Click this for my dedication page for Mother Jones
Don't mourn for me -- Organize!
For A list of Local Union Sites on the Web
WOMEN NEED to prove themselves repeatedly, despite their track record, Chowdhry emphasizes. She believes that these barriers are societal and can be found in all walks of life. She hopes that her generation will have "paved the way" for subsequent generations
However, women should be wary of falling into the trap of feeling that they need to know everything about a particular position before they take the plunge.
"Men learn on the job all the time. We can do the same thing," Carter says. "You don't have to be the expert about everything." As Wood-Black says, sometimes women just need to "jump off the cliff."
To advance, women must let their accomplishments be known. "You have to be your own best trumpeter and tell the world how really fabulous you are," Davis says.
The most important thing is that the working environment must help women find satisfaction. "It's much more important to have women in the workforce who are happy and who are content with their careers and really feel like they're contributing and making a difference in their personal lives and in their professional lives than it is to have all the heads of the Fortune 500 companies be women," Davis says. "We don't want to force these people to do something they don't want to do. We also have to be sure that the systems are in place to enable them to do that if that is what they choose to do. There shouldn't be anything that looks like gender barriers in the workplace preventing them from accomplishing that."
excerpts taken from http://pubs.acs.org/cen/employment/7927/7927employment.html
Cynthia LeClaire has been an Operating Engineer for well over 19 years now and I have had the opportunity to work with her 2 times in the past. She is dedicated, witty and professional and I hope to have the pleasure again in the near future. Cindy and I were the only two Woman Crane operators at the Athens Bechtel site. Cindy has recently worked on another local site at RPI.
Irene Lounsbury is another of our Local 106 operators and has been around long before I started. An experienced operator on bulldozers, forklifts, loaders and the like, she and her husband have been around heavy equipment since childhood. Receiving her 25 year pin, I know it has been a long hard journey but she has paved the way for other female operators to give it their best. I hope to have the pleasure of working along side her in the near future.
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