One of my favorite quotes:
"The people are the ultimate guardians of their own liberties. In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone." - Thomas Jefferson
Chris was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on October 16, 1948.
Immigrating to the United States in 1949 with her French Canadian parents at the age of one Chris is a true example of the struggle and the achievement of women workers in the twentieth century labor union movement.
After arriving in Chicago with her family, Chris had to overcome the language barrier, and the process of assimilation into the English speaking education system. Because of her life choices and the political and social leanings of her family she found herself continually confronted with issues of social injustice in the United States. She is the oldest in a family of six girls.
In 1963, in the midst of the Post Trauma of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, she tried to take high school extracurricular activities and shop classes that only boys were allowed to take and was refused each time. Most time because of her passion for an answer to why girls could not take the classes, she was reprimanded and punished for persisting.
Two weeks after graduation in 1967, Chris was arrested on North Clark Street, in Chicago for holding a women’s hand and both were sentenced to five days in Cook County jail for disorderly conduct.
Claiming that this was the radicalizing moment in her life, she became obsessed with reading books about social and economic issues pertaining to women and homosexual justice and inequality. She went on to work as a gas station attendant after graduation, but wanted to be a carpenter.
She approached Carpenter Local 58 in 1970 and was refused entry into the union apprenticeship program because she was a girl. Until that point women in the construction trades were unheard of. Chris immediately opened a bar with a partner in 1970 called “Chez Ron,” located at 4210 North Lincoln Avenue. This was directly across the street from Carpenter Local 58; in plain view of all members that refused her entry to the carpentry apprenticeship. She remodeled the entire bar inside and out under the watchful eyes of most officers and members of local 58.
This was the start of her critical evaluation of the Building Trades Labor Movement.
Chris worked at night for money to survive and during the day worked for Real Estate and home owners for free to teach herself the trade of carpentry from 1970 to 1974. During this time Chris pursued many other jobs but continued to pursue the carpentry trade.
In 1974 she started CJ Construction & Remodeling Company, encouraged other women to join the construction trade, and advocated community members to support women to enter the construction trades. She continued to work as a non-union carpenter and sub-contractor for many companies. She worked and educated herself at night in other endeavors completing a degree in drafting and working for Union Special Company for six months which gave her the opportunity to custom design a part used in their sewing machines today.
By 1979 she was one of the first women accepted to the carpenters union as a construction worker in the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Union Local 58. This was the same Local that refused her entry in 1970. Chris was one of the first to start to break gender barriers in the carpenters union in the United States. An article was written up about Chris in the Chicago Tribune 1979 as being one of the first women to join this trade union.
One of the first organizations to support women in construction was Sunbow Foundation Inc. Chris became Director of Construction and Training for this organization from1983 until 1986 and was also part of the Board of Directors for a short while.
Chicago Women in Trades was up and running by then and Chris continued to volunteer her time for this organization training, lecturing, and education of the young women wanting to enter the construction trades and continues to do so today.
Chris was the very first women appointed to a position as Union Carpentry Instructor. For over twenty-one years she served as Carpentry Instructor at the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters as a Residential/Commercial Carpentry Instructor and helped in the development of the curriculum now used throughout the ten apprenticeship schools.
In 1990 Chris taught herself computer technology and software. She started her own home business in 1993 called “A Quality Concept,” selling, repairing, and software training. She has since advanced to Website Development and administration, catering to non-for-profit organizations at a reduced rate.
She continues to find ways to keep herself active and involved in Chicago labor movement and education of young women. Chris started a newsletter called the “Ledger Board,” in 1993, but could not afford the mailings. By 1995 she developed a website called “Advocates for Sisters in the Brotherhood” to market the “Ledger Board” newsletter free of charge to give voice to the sister carpenters in the Midwest.
By 2004, Chris was elected by her priers to represent the sister carpenters as Chairwoman of a nine woman Sisters in the Brotherhood (SIB) committee. It was the start of the unofficial Sisters in the Brotherhood of Carpenters in the Chicago area. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters (CRCC) did not approve of this unofficial committee starting without the then CRCC President Earl J. Oliver’s permission. This was seen as their job, not ours. They complained that we were moving too fast! This was the same President that said to my face quote, “I would rather die than see a woman appointed as an organizer!” Well he got his wish…Earl J. Oliver died of a massive heart attack in 2005.
By then over a hundred women were participating at the unofficial SIB monthly meetings.
This action by the unofficial committee catapulted the new CRCC President Martin C. Umlauf into official appointments in 2005. Five woman were appointed to represent the sister carpenters in the newly formed eight-one county jurisdiction. The sisters were on their way to having a voice in their union.
CRCC also appointed three executive brothers to the official SIB women’s committee being the first in our union to do so. They however accidently called themselves Sisters of the Brotherhood, SOB for short, duly named by them in the first letter ever addressing only the sister carpenters in the CRCC jurisdiction. An explanation was given to her that their secretary made the mistake. They made over one hundred “T” shirts with the same mistake, passed out at the second International Sisters in the Brotherhood Convention in 2005. Chris thought this was hilarious!
In May 2008, Chris developed another website and sister group for ALL building trade women across America and Canada called “Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now!” to further equality and social justice in the building trades for women. She developed curriculum and gave classes free of charge at Chicago Women in Trades workshop, to further building trade sister’s education in Department of Labor Union Member Rights.
In June 2008 Chris joined the Coalition of Labor Union Women-Chicago Chapter (CLUW) as a member and has actively participated in various agenda’s pursued by the Chicago and National Chapters. Chris has made the Coalition of Labor Union Women-Chicago Chapter her new home for perusing the labor movement’s agenda for the continued battle for women’s equality and social justice.
Chris is continually active in volunteering her time between Human Rights Campaigns, LCCP, GLBT, Working Women’s History Project, Affinity Community Services, Howard Brown Center, Rebuilding Together-Metro Chicago, AFL-CIO Women & Working Families, Teamsters, political campaigns and many more too numerous to list here.
At the age of sixty she has published one book in 2007 called “An Angel for You: My Life in Poems, Verses and Short Stories,” and is in the planning stages to publish a second book called “Abducted Alien: A True Story of United States Immigration and My Life,” to be released 2009.
She also has two other websites on http://www.authorsden.com/christheabductedalien and called “Twilight Zone USA-Readers Group where she writes monthly newsletters with critical, sometimes controversial commentary about politics and labor unions,” with over one hundred articles to date and over 195,420 hits for different articles read by people logging on to the website. The websites also include information about the two books written and published by her.
Having retired from her position as CRCC-Carpentry Instructor on March 01, 2009, Chris plans to continue to administer her websites, complete her formal education to receive an Associate Degree in Arts and Sciences. Then go on to take classes in Labor Law in the Construction Industry, Strategic Grievance Handling and Modern Organizing Techniques.
She continues to look forward to increased activities participating in the labor movement, politics and the continued fight for equality and social justice for women and LGBT members.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
One of the first women in U.S. and Canada to become a Construction Carpenter, be appointed as an Instructor by the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Apprenticeship & Training Program. Received the Florence Criley Award for Service to the Labor Unions by the Coalition of Labor Union Women 2009.
Chris has published two books called, "An Angel for You, My Life in Poems, Letters, and Short Stories," published in 2007, Second Editon.
“Abducted Alien: A True Story of United States Immigration and My Life.” Published June 1, 2009.
You can purchase this book at http://christheabductedalien.com or online Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com or your favorite book store with the ISBN number(s).
Reviews and comments on my books are welcomed...
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An Angel For You
To review and/or purchase my book "An Angel for You." Thank you to everyone who already purchased my book. You will never know how much you have helped me in my current struggle with the U.S. government...Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Chris
Twilight Zone USA - Readers Group
Information on my books Abducted Alien & An Angel For You,including other articles written. For people Who Want To Know! Articles, videos, book/movie/magazine listing, & much more...
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Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now!
This new organizing effort by Sisters in the Trades – Unite Now! was submitted to the Chicago chapter of Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) for review of our efforts to form a group of women within the union building trades in the Midwest area. The proposal submitted requests certain rights and privileges and announces the groups intention to actively organize women in ALL union trades. It will assist with growth of CLUW’s membership at the same time.
Affirmative Action In The 21st Century Building Trades
Our unions are harmed to the very core when a member is harassed or discriminated against by other members, supervisors, or co-workers. If union members cannot count on another member or their leadership, then who can they count on?
Employers continue to divide the women on the jobsites by dividing all workers based on gender, race, religion, sexual preference, and nationality. Employers continue to pander to minority quotas and not give the proper training needed for women to be retained in their chosen trade or profession for retention to be realized. Executive Officers and local union members continue to keep women away from meetings by intimidation and by not welcoming them when they try to attend meetings.
Women are unable to assertively stand up to the men at their locals because they lack the education needed to have the same power their “brothers” have had for decades…knowledge of their labor union member rights and how the unions work (politics).
Yet blaming the lack of education and proper training required in their chosen trade on women’s lack of assertiveness is like blaming sexual harassment on women’s lack of snappy comebacks. The real problem is not that women do not ask for more – it is that employers pay, train, and support women far less than they are mandated to do in the existing laws, constitutions and bargaining agreements within the different building trade union contracts.
Our union hall is the only place where our voices have a chance to be heard, and our voices will never be heard if we stay away. Of course there is also the terrible word “politics”...we do not want to get involved with that! But without the education of politics and how they work in the unions, our voices cannot be heard and legislation that would benefit our equity and equality will not be passed or supported by our elected legislators.
Or maybe we do not vote at all!
Could this be because we continue to be apathetic towards the politics in our nation and our unions? This is one of the major issues concerning women’s lack of gain in society.
No, employers still do not want to pay us a union scale or train us in the various trades of our choice. There is no retention because apprenticeships continue to enroll us with no support system in place. They continue to hire us to fill their quotas, and we say nothing! Signatory contractors in our unions have had a plan to fill their minority quotas since 1975. Unions are making concessions to new signatory employers who are willing to hire women and people of color in our trades at a lower union scale or where we will not have the ability to graduate to journeymen!
Women do not ask, we just do...we have been conditioned to do this from birth...
It is not all our fault...proper education in the bargaining agreements, the constitution among other union training needed will allow us the power to negotiate and fight for our rights at the union halls and in the government.
A problem exists when women work on union jobsites where we have no voice in our training, employment, pay scale, bargaining agreements and support required from our unions and employers because of the small number of women in each trade. Women in various unions are fighting for equality...but the numbers are not enough to make a difference.
Until we grow our numbers in each trade, our voices will remain unheard. The unions will continue pandering to our requests with “Arcadian Doublespeak.”
Unions pander to women’s efforts for suggested changes for improvement. They place it on paper for everyone to see their good faith effort. They tell us what we want to hear, then turn around and do nothing...
To get the training we need and gain the power that our counterparts have had for decades. We must educate ourselves to labor history, labor management relations, organizing, and assertiveness techniques and social justice legislation in our government to have our voices heard.
We must organize now! We must work together to increase the number of women in all unions. We need to continue fighting for the rights we still do not have today...and bring that power back to our chosen trade unions.
The hope of Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! is to impose a newly invigorated labor movement by tradeswomen throughout this great nation. This might be a utopian delusion; but when the success of this organization is realized by representatives in the unions and the overall government, women will then be truly equal in the workforce.
Women in the building trades have already organized themselves on the East and West coasts. Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! is not going to reinvent the wheel. It will become part of the national movement already started and will be part of history in the making. These women will be able to hold their heads high because they stepped up to be counted in the union trades.
What is important to all of us must be spoken and shared, even at the risk of being misunderstood. We must not allow our fears to interfere with our passion for social justice and human rights. Sitting at home doing nothing will not change our lives!
By joining together as one, the unions and government will have to listen!
Organizing Women in the Building Trades
The National Labor Relations Board states that some unions prohibit dissemination of facts about labor law and salary, and the secrecy continues. Since less than two percent of the building trades workers are women in today’s building trade unions…it is obvious that these working women are suffering economically because the majority of them have not been retained by their unions after their apprenticeship training. It is a known fact that union members have always enjoyed higher wages if they succeed in their training. Women have been allowed to join the union construction trades since 1975. The unions have been unable to retain women in their chosen trades ever since. The numbers of women in trade work remains stagnate at two percent participation across the nation.
Support must come from the top down, not from the bottom up. Unity among workers and opposition to discrimination are important parts of our proud union heritage. Stopping discrimination in hiring practices is a part of that tradition. If union contractors and employers believe workers can be divided by gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual preference, physical condition, or any other factor they continue to exploit these differences. When workers show contractors and management that they will defend all workers’ rights and insist on basic respect for all, unions will be stronger when confronting other issues as well. Only when they stand together can workers win better contracts, fight for effective legislation, and organize for their future.
It is imperative, while fulfilling our goals, that we stay within the existing agreements and constitutions set forth by our unions and take aggressive steps to more effectively address the critical needs of now thousands of unorganized women and make our unions more responsive to the needs of ALL women.
The primary purpose of Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! is to unify all union women in the building trades and determine our common problems and concerns and develop action programs within the framework of our unions to deal effectively with these objectives. The educational needs of women will be evaluated to strengthen our knowledge of union member rights, assertiveness training and negotiation abilities within our individual unions.
In meeting these goals, Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! intends to follow the Department of Labor Union Member Rights, individual union agreements, and the constitutions within the various unions.
Statement of Purpose
The new group Sisters in the Trades–Unite Now! seeks to inspire, empower, and educate union women in the building trades to strengthen their participation, encourage the leadership and movement into policy-making roles within their unions and within the union movement in all areas of the union and women’s issues on legislation currently being pursued. This group will follow in the footsteps in the organization called, “International Coalition Labor Union Women.”
In this effort Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! proposes to assist with the education of women in the various trade unions as to what programs need to be implemented to retain the women currently in their unions. It also plans to participate actively in the ongoing legislation to strengthen women’s equality in today’s society, and to assist with the education of male members in the various unions to realize retention of the women in the building trade unions.
Sisters in the Trades–Unite Now! seeks to promote unionism and to encourage the building trade unions and signatory contractors to help women overcome serious obstacles to the achievement of full employment opportunities because of continuous discrimination on job sites. The goal is to assist unions and employers in being more progressive in their efforts to support the union women already in building trade unions and to include new women members in this support.
Political Action and Legislation
It is imperative that union tradeswomen become educated and active participants in the political and legislative processes of the government and unions. This will allow us to understand what is at stake. Tradeswomen must move towards full time employment. We must become part of the negotiation process within the unions for pay and shorter work weeks without loss of pay. Trades women must discuss ways to improve benefits geared towards us, including maternity leave and partner benefits. We must also help to improve pension benefits, health and safety coverage, and to expand educational opportunities within the labor bargaining agreements. Trades women must provide mass action for the final ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and guarantee collective bargaining rights, the right to strike, and an extension of truly protective legislation for all workers.
These are only a few of the political action programs in which Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! will participate.
Sisters in the Trades-Unite Now! intends to educate, encourage and urge women in the building trades to participate in their union’s political action and volunteer organizing committees. It will encourage participation in elections of progressive political candidates within their neighborhoods and townships, and encourage women to nominate and run for official positions within their unions and actively participate in changes that need to occur to strengthen women’s rights. Women must demand member and union officer support at their locals and through their administration. This includes health, education, environmental and human equal rights at every union hall and this must carry over into the county, state and national government before our lives will change.