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Iron Worker

Name: Felicia E. Battley, 39

Institution: Ironworkers Local 7, South Boston. Battley is also president of the Boston Women's Trade Network.

How did you become a union ironworker? I always had an interest because my father was a union worker from way back. I was working as a restaurant manager. I heard about the Big Dig and said, `How do I get on that project?' So I went to the Women in the Building Trades. They said, `Here's a list of the trades.' I chose ironworking, and I went down to the union hall and applied.

Felicia E. Battley, Iron Worker
Photo by Tom Landers (Globe Staff)
Describe the job: Ironworkers handle all structural work relating to steel including the frame of buildings and bridges. It also includes such things as the steel rebar in concrete.

Is it hard getting in? There's a weeding out process. There's a waiting period. Then there's a three-year apprenticeship. They're very strict. But it's good training, very demanding.

How is the pay? You start as an apprentice at 60 percent of the current rate, and every six months you get an incremental increase. The rate is $26.67 now. The union got me my first job on the Ted Williams tunnel. My first year, I think I made $55,000.

What do you like besides the money? I love being in the trades. It's a tangible thing. Every time I drive down the street and pass a building I worked on, I can say `I did that.'

What is the Women's Trade Network? We're all women who work in the building trades. We're a referral service, an information service.

How did you get involved in the group? At first, I didn't want to get involved. But they told me, `If you ever get laid off, give us a call and we'll see what we can do.' I did get laid off. I called the then-executive director, and she referred me to a couple of companies. And I got hired. I was very impressed that these women could do that for me.

How many women are in the trades? It's still a very low percentage. As far as we can determine, it's just about 3 percent.

A final thought: Women are always told, `Oh no. You can't do that. Work over here, this is good enough for you.' But it's not good enough if you want more. We have single mothers out there who can't support themselves on minimum wage jobs, and they're good enough to do this stuff. So they should be encouraged to do it.

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