Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chicago Apprenticeship Town Hall Meeting Revealed

A Woman's Perspective: March 24, 2010 Office of Apprenticeship Town Hall Meeting

As some of you may have heard, on March 1st, the Illinois Department of Labor released its findings under the State Construction Minority and Female Building Trades Act, Public Act 96-0037 in their annual report of apprentices in the construction industry. Sad to say, the findings over all showed a dismal decline in female participation in the industry since its boom in the late seventies. In summary, women make up a mere 3%of all apprentices and African Americans a close second in lack of participation by proportion at 8.7%. If that isn’t enough of an eye opener, let’s delve a little further into what this report doesn’t say. The report doesn’t provide data by trade affiliation. In other words, women are three percent of all apprentices in a survey that included nineteen separate trade programs, 98% of which are union programs, but we aren’t told the numbers per trade. What it also doesn’t do is separate the data into more specific groups. For instance, what is the overlap regarding African-American women, who are counted twice according to this survey?


Needless to say, a lot of questions are left unanswered, but under the direction of the current Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, efforts are being made to bridge this gap. Through a series of town hall styled meetings, there is an ongoing compilation of input from leaders and participants in the construction industry. Today, March 24th, marked the second one to hit the windy city area and concerned parties filled the room at The University Center on 525 S. State St. to have their voices heard.

Some of the highlights: Dr. Trimmer, Chair of the UCM Jobs Task Force, gave an estimate of approximately 137,444 African Americans are missing from the construction industry, based on population percentages, and that “if goals aren’t being met, then not enough is being done” as far as enforcement; Troy Buchanan, representative of Transportation Equity Network (TEN), who referred to the good faith efforts policy as the good “fake” effort, said that on average only 10% of participants who complete extraneous programs are ever placed into union programs and holding the unions responsible would effect more change; Tony Lawler, representing the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, inspired hope in those of us union carpenters in the room when he shared the steps taken in his region to ensure diversity within our brothers and sisters there, touching on our own belief that “contractors contact with the minority workforce” is necessary to encourage the increase in our numbers on the job, and it is necessary to have multiple points of entry into an apprenticeship program to ensure fairness and diversity; Ella Jones, retired Local 281 Sprinkler Fitter, shared her experiences and mentioned the 2.8% African Americans in her local, with only three women in her local to date.

In addition, knowledgeable insight was given by Lauren Sugerman, iconic former board president at Chicago Women in Trades, who was there representing Tradeswoman Now and Tomorrow. A few of her suggestions include: a regional advisor to oversee apprentice programs’ efforts; more pre-apprenticeship training programs targeting women; a federal task force to monitor the numbers and enforce lack of progress. Speaking for CWIT, Pamela Berryhill reiterated these sentiments, also asserting that annual reviews needed to be done. This sentiment seemed to be supported by the room, with Terri Burgess Sandu, Executive Director of Hard Hatted Women, maintaining that the data compiled in such reviews should be accessible by the public. Before the floor was opened to unregistered comments, Robert Barnett, Senior Program Manager for The Chicago Urban League, alluded to the outdated demographics and their negative impact on effective participation percentages.

Nieko Malcom, member of Carpenter’s Local 1 and five year co-chair of the Chicago Regional Council Sisters in the Brotherhood Steering Committee, made a valid point by highlighting the exclusion of white women on public jobs as contractors are eager for the double minority credit received for hiring black women, usually at the tail end of a project. I, myself, spoke on the double standard with minority/female targeted pre-apprenticeship programs requiring up to ten times the hours, with Job Corps capping out at nine to ten months as opposed to nine weeks. Seems to me that the playing field would be instantly leveled if ALL applicants seeking apprenticeship had to meet these same requirements.

Though it has been my experience, and the numbers support, that our union here in Chicago has a dismal track record as far as retention and advancement of females and minorities, many of the heavy hitters, including Lauren Sugerman and Terri Burgess, seemed to believe that OUR union should be the model and leader of the efforts to increase the numbers. Maybe it’s just me, but in my fifteen years as a member of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, I’ve never felt any support or encouragement to stick around. Nevertheless, I was out of the room when our region’s representatives took the floor, so I am not privy to what was said by the leaders of our Chicago Regional Council, including Jeff Isaacson, who were there. In summation, from this woman’s perspective, what our union says they are doing and what the majority of sisters in this region experience in the Carpenter’s Union can be likened to the picture above. We both say that advancement and retention of women in The Chicago Regional Council is a necessary goal, and steps should be taken to accomplish this. Yet for some reason, the female membership and regional leadership are unable to meet in the middle. This divergence of direction needs to be addressed by our leadership if we are ever to thrive as the PROUD UNION CARPENTERS we are.
Stephannie DuBose
Carpenter’s Local 434

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Regulations

April 7, 2010
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET

Submit Feedback, Suggestions, and Comments
  • Must be received on or before April 16, 2010
  • Online at -use Docket Identification Number "ETA 2010-0001"
  • Follow the web site instructions for submitting comments
  • All information will be publicly available on the web site.

Other Ways to Provide Your Input
Individuals may submit written suggestions and feedback on the current regulations to the Employment and Training Administration, Office of Apprenticeship, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Room N5311, Washington, DC 20210, Attention: Mr. John V. Ladd, or on-line through

Additional Information
A Federal Register Notice announcing these meetings, the webinar, and details for submitting feedback via will be published shortly, and posted on OA’s Web site:

Current 29 CFR part 30 available on home page of OA's web site:

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