Live Wire

Live Wire: Women and Brotherhood in the Electrical Industry

Francine A. Moccio
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Live Wire
    Book Description:

    InLive Wire, Francine Moccio brings to life forty years of public policy reform and advocacy that have failed to eliminate restricted opportunities for women in highly paid, skilled blue-collar jobs. Breaking barriers into a male-only occupation and trade, women electricians have found career opportunities in nontraditional work. Yet their efforts to achieve gender equality have also collided with the prejudice and fraternal values of brotherhood and factors that have ultimately derailed women's full inclusion.

    By drawing instructive comparisons of women's entrance into the electricians' trade and its union with those of black and other minority men, Moccio's in-depth case study brings new insights into the ways in which divisions at work along the lines of race, gender, and economic background enhance and/or inhibit inclusion. Incorporating research based on extensive primary, secondary, and archival resources,Live Wirecontributes a much-needed examination of how sex segregation is reproduced in blue-collar occupations, while also scrutinizing the complex interactions of work, unions, leisure, and family life.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-739-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Getting Wired
    (pp. 1-19)

    Institutionalized discrimination based on race, class, and gender is a per sis tent theme in American history and an enduring trait of our culture.¹ Although significant progress has been made in integrating women in the professions, one of the last bastions of male dominance is the construction building trades, which is 98 percent male.²

    The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has allocated $789 billion for 3.5 million new jobs over the next year for a range of industries (90 percent of which are in the private sector) from infrastructural building work to energy renewal to health care. Nationally, $150...

  5. 1 Brotherhood: The History
    (pp. 20-33)

    Off a rambling road on the tip of Long Island, for more than eighty-five years a sprawling mansion stood over a white beach facing the Atlantic Ocean. Designed in the style of an English manor house, completed in 1919, and dubbed Bayberry Land, the 300-acre estate served as the summer home of Guaranty Trust Company president Charles H. Sabin and his bride Pauline Morton Smith, heiress to the Morton Salt Company (“When It Rains, It Pours”).¹ Sabin, described in an obituary in theNew York Timesdescribed him as “one of the most prominent figures in American finance,”² died in...

  6. 2 A Closer Look at Local 3
    (pp. 34-55)

    Today, Local 3 stubbornly clings to the policies, practices, and administrative structures that helped it succeed in the twentieth century. With over thirty-five thousand members, including thirteen thousand in the elite construction Division A, Local 3 has developed a large, hierarchical governing structure. A full-time business manager, elected every four years, runs the day-to-day operations, but the Committee of 100, whose membership is handed down from father to son, is a permanent feature of the brotherhood and guarantees its members organizational continuity.² As mentioned in Chapter 1, the Committee was formed from the Loyal 100, the union activists who supported...

  7. 3 The Struggle to Become Electricians
    (pp. 56-76)

    Women’s struggles to enter the electrical brotherhood have been shaped not only by the Local’s traditional fraternal structure, but also by factors such as the historical contingency and influence of national and local public policy, the feminist movement, and community grassroots activism. These factors all challenged the formidable gender and racial hierarchy of the construction industry and the electrical brotherhood.

    Modern scholars of women’s labor history have described how a gendered social order penetrates all institutional aspects of American society.² Workers and bosses, labor leaders and capitalists alike, have agreed about one thing: a woman’s place was in the home...

  8. 4 On the Electrical Construction Work Site: The Sexual Charge
    (pp. 77-101)

    At the work site itself—the great clanking, churning, cacophonous hive of steel and concrete and wire—the economic imperative to build meets the social system of the brotherhood. Yet the focus here is on the determined and checkmated women electricians of the 1990s and today who struggle to gain a foothold in Local 3’s Division A: white, black, and brown; lesbian and heterosexual; middle-class, working-class, and poor; the generation that followed the initial cadres from the late 1970s and 1980s. Some three hundred women electricians entered the Local 3 electrical program in these decades, out of thirteen thousand union...

  9. 5 Race for the Brotherhood: The Ironies of Integration
    (pp. 102-129)

    Let us step back and ask some structural questions: Beyond the brotherhood ideology discussed in the previous chapters, how can we understand the continued exclusion of women from an industry which they have struggled for so many decades to enter? How does this struggle compare with those of other outsiders, such as minority men? Why has this historical pattern been reinforced more strongly in construction than in other industries? In this chapter, I take a closer look at questions of race—and at the puzzle of why and how, despite the strong degree of racism in society, male racial minorities...

  10. 6 A Club of Her Own
    (pp. 130-151)

    Women presented a problem to the leadership of Local 3 from the beginning. Journeywoman Evan Ruderman, from the apprentice class of 1978, recalls that when she and three other female pioneers first entered Division A, business manager Harry Van Arsdale Jr. made a speech to members of Local 3 regarding the need for safe and cheap public transportation.² He spoke about the crowded subways of the time and said that workers do not want to be crushed against each other. Then he added, slyly, “However, I’m sure the women don’t mind that too much.”3 It sent the overwhelmingly male union...

  11. Conclusion: Getting Women Down to the Job Site
    (pp. 152-178)

    Since the early 1960s there has been a substantial increase in the number of women in the labor force, but it has not resulted in a more integrated labor force. Although women comprise 48.1 percent of the labor force as of 2007, more than 80 percent of all employed women work in just 71 of 400 detailed occupations.¹

    Examining women’s entry into electrical work and its affiliated craft union brotherhood afforded a unique opportunity to gain insights into the ways in which transformed relations of fraternalism operate in the present day, particularly with regard to the role it plays in...

  12. Appendix A
    (pp. 179-180)
  13. Appendix B
    (pp. 181-184)
  14. Appendix C
    (pp. 185-188)
  15. Appendix D
    (pp. 189-196)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 197-244)
  17. Selected References
    (pp. 245-260)
  18. Glossary
    (pp. 261-266)
  19. Index
    (pp. 267-271)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-272)