|By Jane LaTour
|Sisters in the Brotherhoods
|Photo by Jon Bloom
|Every purchase via this website supports human rights work. Learn more.
|At the time, Blackwelder was only vaguely conscious of this aspect of the local’s history. As a new apprentice, she was
paying attention to getting her bearings and learning the ropes. Once on the job as a “journeyman,” she faced the barriers
beyond the effort of learning a new trade. In time, her status as an outsider became the foreground. Alongside some of her
fellow union members, she participated in efforts to challenge the discriminatory job referral system.
During the twelve years Blackwelder spent in the local, corruption was invisible to her. It was only toward the end of her
career that she became aware of these notorious transactions, through the publicity surrounding the trials in federal court. In
1991, the business agent for her local, Frank Leone, was murdered.
|In 1979, Janine Blackwelder became the first “cowgirl” of the
sky in New York City. As a newcomer, standing 5 feet, 7
inches tall, slender, with a heart-shaped face and a pixie
haircut, she didn’t fit the popular image of an ironworker.
Blackwelder consciously chose a nontraditional job “for the
cause” of women’s equality. She began her apprenticeship
the same year that an agreement between the union, Local
580, and the government—signed after years of litigation—
opened up the program to minority males.