Rochelle Sabatos; Arden Safety

Rhode Island Trades Women are organizing for the future! The RI Building & Construction Trades Women’s Council celebrated Women’s History Month with an event at Twin Oaks.

More than 30 women joined from multiple trades including LIUNA Laborers’ Local Union 271, Painters & Tapers IUPAT DC 11, Bricklayers Local 3, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 6,  Iron Workers Local 37, and the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 51. A current pre-apprentice at Building Futures (and prospective electrician, although she’s still considering multiple career options) also joined the event.

The event featured guest speaker Rochelle Sabatos of Arden Engineering who spoke about her experience and the role of Health and Safety in advocating for all workers’ rights and for gender equity on the job.

The newly-organized Women’s Council is focusing on:

  • culture change— creating more opportunities for women to explore careers in the trades and to support both recruitment and retention of new women into the trades,

  • advocating for women’s rights on the job— from ensuring rules on adequate sanitation facilities are met to supporting each other through apprenticeship and beyond, and

  • community advocacy— working together to advocate on issues that impact tradeswomen and their communities, for example, to support expanded hours for childcare that would enable tradeswomen and men to access childcare at the early hours they need.

Darche Hood, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 6, Women’s Council Co-Chair

Vennicia Kingston, LIUNA Laborers’ Local Union 271, Women’s Council Co-chair

Michael Sabitoni, LIUNA Laborers’ Local 271 & District Council Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer;  President, RI Building and Construction Trades Council

The  Women’s Council is chaired by two Journeyworker tradeswomen, Darche Hood, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 6, and Vennicia Kingston, LIUNA Laborers’ Local Union 271. Both women graduated Building Futures and continue to cite the importance of pre-apprenticeship in creating access for them to launch their careers in the trades.

The co-chairs shared their experience of challenging expectations on the job and broad goals of the Women’s Council. Darche Hood shared,

“By virtue of being a mom and a woman, I know I am able to do the job. We know we are strong and equal to the work. Now we have this opportunity to  come together so that we can get our numbers up and expand our voice on the job.”

Vennicia Kingston recently launched her own contracting company, Eagle Eye Construction.

 “By launching my own company, I can run my own show and create opportunities for women coming into the trade.”

The Women’s Council is determined to be solution-oriented and positively focused, to provide a positive point of change and advocacy that will ultimately be beneficial to all workers and stakeholders in the industry.

“We know the woes, but this is about solutions. We’re going to get together with a single voice— and we’re together at the RI Building & Construction Trades Council with the leaders of the unions,” Vennicia continued.

The Council plans to hold events quarterly that are both informative and social, in addition to workshops on health and safety and advocacy issues. The Council is open to all members of RIBCTC member unions and is recruiting board members to join the leadership team.

The Executive Board of the RI Building and Construction Trades Council (RIBCTC) has actively supported and encouraged this new organizing effort. The Women’s Council first began working together with the RIBCTC just before COVID shut downs. All parties are excited to be meeting in person and moving the work forward. RIBCTC President, Michael Sabitoni, shared his enthusiasm for the initiative,

“The RIBCTC is proud to have the Women’s Council at the table. The trades offer women excellent career opportunities and equal pay. We want to ensure that talented women across Rhode Island hear about these opportunities and having the Women’s Council as a partner in the work of recruitment and retention is key to our success.”