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MA Building Trades Pushing Plan for Pre-Apprenticeship Program Targeting Women, Minorities

Jim Pimental, President of Bricklayers Local 3.

Jim Pimental, President of Bricklayers Local 3.

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In an effort to further diversify the construction trades, the Southeast Massachusetts Building Trades are moving forward with plans to create a pre-apprenticeship program for women and minorities.  The organization is taking the advice of the Women’s Fund’s Task Force on Pathways to a Living Wage, a partnership of 30 organizations led by the Women’s Fund of Southeastern Mass. and the Bristol County Commission on the Status of Women, which made several recommendations to improve economic conditions for women.  

Valerie Bassett, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund, told South Coast Today:

“The impact would be huge for women in the region for the unions to have a pre-apprenticeship program.  We know it’s a guaranteed living wage job. You’re getting paid to work while earning skills for a life-long living wage career.

While it would be small stream of women at first in the program, it would help make a difference in creating opportunities for women and help inspire others to pursue union trade work.

Trade union work is less susceptible to the gender wage gap’s pitfalls according to Ron Rheaume, Business Manager for Carpenter’s Local 1305. He touted the union’s history of equal pay, saying: “For women, it is guaranteed she will make equal pay with men.  It’s been that way since the inception of union organizations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings average $904 for women in unions, compared to $687 for non-union women.

Jim Pimental, Vice President of Bricklayers Local 3, said that the mere introduction of the opportunities will go a long way:

“A lot of women don’t even think to go into the building trades with stereotypes being what they are.  Women only make up a small fraction of the workforce in union trades. We want to give the whole community a shot. We recognize that women can do the job. You can earn a good living and women shouldn’t be denied that opportunity just because they are women.”

Pimental said that the building trades are currently in preliminary discussions about the pre-apprenticeship program.  He said that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s proposed casino in Taunton could be a great kickoff project:

“I feel confident we will get something going. I think it will start small.  If we can get policy makers to buy in and get it written into projects to provide opportunities for minorities and women, it makes it easier.”

Pimental said that the highly successful Building Pathways program in Boston would likely be a model.  Created by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the program offers low-income men and women a clear path to union apprenticeship under the umbrella of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

In November, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez visited one of the program’s sites, lauding it as a “pathway to the middle class.”


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