Op-Ed: NYC Carpenters Union Promotes Diversity and Respect in Construction

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Author: Taji Riley

This month is Black History month, a time to honor the achievements of our Black brothers and sisters in construction. As a Black woman, I am proud of the NYC Carpenters Union for taking bold action to create a culture of diversity and inclusivity in what has been a traditionally male-dominated industry. Through awareness and progress, the union is a place where members like me feel welcome and where we represent the communities where we live and work.

The goal of our union is simple – to provide our hardworking members with safe jobs with quality benefits that result in healthy futures for ourselves and our families. Being in the union is part of the American Dream. That’s why we’re driven to create pathways into the union for historically underrepresented groups in the city.

As a member of the New York City District Council of Carpenters for 7 years, I have personally benefited from being in the union. I’ve built a set of skills that will be with me forever. As a young Black woman without a college degree, being in the union has given me the tools necessary to move towards financial freedom, and I have been able to take good care of my family. With the union supporting me during my journey, I have the strength and ability to take steps towards closing the Wage Gap that continues to exist for many Black women and men in this city and across the country.

I have also been appointed to a leadership role as Recording Secretary on the Sisters in the Brotherhood Women’s Committee. Through my position, I can mentor other young women to build successful careers in the trade. The union has lifted me up, allowing me to become the very best version of myself. This experience is not unique to me, but for thousands of New Yorkers, especially in communities of color, because of the District Council’s efforts.

I have seen first-hand the value of creating a diverse workforce, where workers feel respected on and off the job site. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion allows us to build the most highly skilled workforce possible. When we can all work together as union brothers and sisters, we tackle challenges as a team, enabling us to build the state-of-the-art infrastructure that New York needs.

The New York City District Council of Carpenters goes the extra mile by offering apprenticeship programs and classes at their training center to make sure no matter your background, you have a chance to prosper. For example, through their Building Works program, the District Council serves residents from low-income communities, ensuring unionized opportunities in carpentry across the city.

Today, I’m fortunate to say that I belong to a union strong family that celebrates its members and our differences. I encourage all women and communities of color to consider joining a union – no matter the trade – as the industry creates a pathway to a rewarding career.