When I started my journey to become a union carpenter four and a half years ago, I didn’t know how much I would come to love my job. I have become a more confident and determined person. I found community and mentorship. I gained a deep sense of pride in my contributions to building a better New York for generations to come. And I have security that those things cannot be taken away, because I know my union and the union contractors we work with are committed to providing quality, sustainable careers for New Yorkers like me.
My path to becoming a union carpenter began in a pre-apprenticeship program with NEW (Nontraditional Employment for Women), one of the ways that New York’s union carpenters and contractors seek to include more women in the industry. As a Black woman, entering a historically male-dominated industry was intimidating at first. But being surrounded by peers and mentors who looked like me made me realize I was not alone. I joined the Sisters in the Brotherhood (SIB) mentorship program, which pairs new women members with female mentors in the union.
I quickly learned that I loved carpentry, and I loved building the backbone of the city I call home. Joining a union made me realize that working in construction didn’t have to mean hopping from job to job with no idea of what would come next. My job, my livelihood, and my safety are all protected.
New York’s union carpenters and contractors prioritize safety above all else on job sites. I feel confident that I’ve been trained to the highest safety standards and that the places I work are held to those standards as well.
My job also offers me high-quality healthcare and retirement security so that I can retire comfortably when my career comes to an end. I can rest assured today knowing that I can count on a stable future tomorrow, with quality pay and benefits to support me and my family for decades to come.
This security and stability has the power to change the lives of so many. Working in union construction offers opportunities for economic independence and financial security that have been limited for women and Black communities for far too long. I am proud to belong to a union devoted to diversifying their membership and creating access to family-sustaining careers. Through diverse program initiatives and the generous benefits, union carpentry can be a truly sustainable, fulfilling career.
Today, I am finishing up my apprenticeship as a proud member of Local Union 157, where I am surrounded by other strong women and people of color who make me feel seen in our industry. I know that I can be here for many years to come because of the safety and security union carpenters and contractors provide.
After completing my apprenticeship, the only way to go is up. My next goals are to become a shop steward, a foreman, a site safety manager, and a superintendent to grow my impact both within the union and on the rest of the city. I also want to serve as a mentor so that I can support other women of color joining the union like my mentors did for me. I can’t wait for what’s next in my journey to build New York’s best.