This month, we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King was an ardent supporter of the labor movement who spoke out in favor of unions and promoted them as an important pathway to economic prosperity and equality. He rallied with unions across the country and across industries. He knew that the struggle for workers’ rights was inherently linked to the civil rights movement. His tragic assassination occurred as he stood in solidarity with sanitation workers who were members of the AFSCME union.
The building trades unions share this belief with Dr. King that union jobs are a vital link to a more prosperous and equitable future for all workers. We are proudly and continually promoting initiatives that expand access to family-sustaining careers in the union building trades to historically underrepresented groups, including the intentional creation of pathways for women and people of color. A diverse group of more than 100 Boston union members recently testified on how the union building trades are succeeding in this work, diversifying our ranks and lifting up families in every neighborhood of our city and surrounding communities.
The union building trades have been steadily creating new pathways for underrepresented workers to gain a foothold in the middle class. In 2011, under the leadership of now-Mayor Martin J. Walsh, MetroBTC partnered with the Boston Housing Authority to launch Building Pathways Pre-Apprentcieship Program. This program opens the door to greater numbers of women and people of color and was the first of many initiatives to create greater diversity in the union building trades – one of the last industries where workers can readily attain economic security during and beyond their training process.
This flagship program is just one initiative MetroBTC helps lead. Another is the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues (PGTI), a learning community of over 80 partners dedicated to supporting the recruitment and retention of women, especially women of color, in construction.
We also co-founded the Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity (NCTE), a first-of-its-kind, statewide recruitment initiative called “Build A Life That Works.” The initiative, promoted on billboards and bus shelters, is an effort to drive more women to explore the union building trades. Growing numbers of women are attending monthly Tradeswomen Tuesdays in Roxbury to hear firsthand the benefits of a union building trades career from women union members. This program is complemented by Massachusetts Girls in Trades, which brings together labor, educational, governmental and industry organizations to encourage young alumnae to pursue careers in the building trades.
Being intentional about outreach and recruitment is just the start. We are also advocating for policies that will help increase opportunity. For instance, we were proud to support Mayor Walsh’s 2017 revision of the Boston Residence Jobs Policy Ordinance to increase the diversity goals in the construction industry. On the statewide level, we have partnered with Community Labor United on the Care That Works campaign, which advocates for affordable, quality child care for families like our members, who work non-traditional hours.
We know there is more work to do. We look forward to partnering with even more stakeholders to expand inclusion in the construction industry. We do so, always, in the spirit of solidarity and in honor of the vision Dr. King put forth for equality – and for a world where all workers can experience equity and a better life by exercising their human right to be part of a union.