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Women Hold Few Trade Jobs In Nevada

Associated Press

It’s no surprise that women are a minority in trade jobs, but in Nevada, the numbers are surprisingly low.

Take a look at Las Vegas unions.

The plumbing and pipefitters union has 1,900 members and only 34 are women. There are 607 construction electrician “journeyworkers” in town, only two are women. And of the 67 ironworkers with “journeyworker” status, only one is a woman.

Reporter April Corbin wrote about this disparity for the Nevada Current.

The state has set guidelines, not quotas, for the number of women who could be involved in building trades, but so far, the number of women involved in the trades aren't even close.

In the affirmative action pledge, as it is called, apprenticeship programs have to try "in good faith" to fulfill the standard. However, Corbin said there is no definition of what "in good faith" means.

“So, that really comes down to the individuals who are running these apprenticeship programs and recruiting for these apprenticeship programs," she said. "They get to decide what constitutes a good faith effort."

To make matters worse, Corbin pointed out that oversight of these programs has been spotty at best.

The apprenticeship council is supposed to check apprenticeship programs to make sure they're meeting state standards, including recruiting more women.

However, a survey found the council had only inspected a little more than half the programs, and of those that were inspected, 99 percent were cited for not recruiting enough women.

Building trade apprentice programs and unions say they struggle to find anybody who wants to go into a trade job, let alone women.

“They’ll say we’re having a hard time recruiting anybody because everybody keeps trying to push them towards college and they’re trying to push them away from trade programs,” she said.

Evelyn Pacheco is the first black woman to become a plumber in Nevada. She entered the field by applying for a job at the Fitzgerald's Casino downtown, which is now the D.

She wanted a maintenance job,but the person who hired her told her they would train her to do room service maintenance work, including plumbing.

After working there, she applied to be part of the pipefitters and plumbers union. 

Pacheco has met her fair share of discrimination on the job.

“I got a lot of pushback,” she said. “I got ‘you’re taking a man’s job who needs to feed his family.’ And I’m like ‘I’m taking somebody’s job that needs to feed their family?’… How can you say that when I need to feed my family?”

She said the job has allowed her to buy a house and provide for her kids. Pacheco admits it is a demanding field, but it pays well in part because it is unionized, which means the pay structure is set and women get paid the same as men if they have the same experience.

Pacheco says women can most definitely do the work but many just don't know it's available to them.

“It’s not a ‘no' thing," she says."It’s an ‘I didn’t know that."

Pacheco is starting a program to get more women into the building trades but she doesn't think the state is doing its part.

She believes the union should be recruiting women and people of color in neighborhoods in Las Vegas that need help. She said union members recruit friends or family members sometimes from other states rather than "insourcing" for people in Southern Nevada.

There is some hope. Besides the effort Pacheco is making, the apprenticeship council is now under the Governor's Office for Workforce Innovation, and a new board has been appointed. The board's director has promised better oversight.

Corbin said the industry can't just change the word to "journeyworker" from "journeymen" and think they've accomplished non-discrimination. They have to put in an effort.

“They pledged publicly and on paper to make this effort to do that and they haven’t," she said. "That is suspect."

(Editor's note: This story originally aired August 2018)

April Corbin, reporter, Nevada Current; Evelyn Pacheco, first black woman to become a plumber in Nevada

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.