In memory of Outi Hicks, “Be That One Guy” who challenges sexism in the world of construction

Today, Valentine’s Day, is the one year anniversary of the murder of Outi Hicks, Carpenter apprentice, killed by a co-worker on a construction site in Fresno, CA.

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Outi Hicks on her first job

The article below from the New York Times discusses the connection between sexual harassment on the job and the concept of “manly jobs” or, as the author describes it, “blue-collar jobs that once scored a kind of manly trifecta: They paid a breadwinner’s wage, embodied strength and formed the backbone of the American economy.” This certainly describes the benefits of the construction trades today for both women and men–good wages, hard work and building communities.

But along with those benefits has come a long history of sexism and discrimination against tradeswomen. Outi’s fate is one story and most tradeswomen have endless and often horrifying stories of their experiences of being the only woman in a “hostile work environment.” [PGTI’s founding document, Unfinished Business, documents this history.]

Over the past decade, tradeswomen and their allies, with the support of their unions and industry leaders, have been transforming the construction workplace in Massachusetts. In Greater Boston, it is now nearly normal for women to not be the only one on a construction site and, when harassment does happen, tradeswomen’s formal and informal networks across the state provide resources to protect the women and even to confront the problem man.

And that is usually where the story begins and should end– with one sexist man with the bad attitude, the bully, the idiot. He starts it, the teasing, demeaning, touching, threatening. The woman knows she could lose her job or worse and lacks the power to stop it.

Screenshot 2018-02-13 17.59.24That is when the another tradesman, That One Guy, is needed. That One Guy who tells the idiot to it cut out. That One Guy who takes the woman aside to find out what is going on. That One Guy who will speak up for the woman if the story needs to go higher to a super or steward to get the bully to back down and shut up– or to lose his job. That One Guy stands up for the simple right of women to do their job with dignity and respect, the same as every other tradesperson on the site.

At the 2017 Women Build Nations Conference in Chicago last October, Outi Hicks was honored and the Ironworkers’ Union debuted their Be That One Guy campaign. It is another tool for making the work safe for women and reaching the goal of 20% women by 2020, a tool that should be used on sites and in training centers throughout the industry. The alternatives, embodied in the memory of Outi and spelled out in the article below, perpetuate not only the danger and discrimination of the past but also an image and reputation that has injured the entire building trades movement. For a stronger and unified building trades movement, sisters, #WeAreOutiHicks, and brothers, #BeThatOneGuy.

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