From being bused to a previously all-white school as a young student to having two foremen actively try to cause her physical harm, the days of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 business representative Donna Hammond experiencing overt racism are mostly in the past.
After pursuing an international business major at the University of Oregon and Portland State, Hammond learned of an opening for the electrical apprenticeship at the unemployment office’s apprenticeship division. She was one of the first women, and the second Black woman, to be accepted into the NECA/IBEW apprenticeship in 1978.
She found the power of representation in the early 1970s with the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus. It was the first time she had seen a female or Black business manager and international representative.
She got involved with the caucus’ leadership development program and became an officer in the Portland chapter. Her dedication in the organization led her out of field work and into leadership, including positions in project management and electrical planning.
These days, part of her work as a business representative serving the greater Portland area is to address harmful biases that interfere with workforce cohesion. She abides by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctrine that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can.”
When she was assigned an apprentice who had been caught using the N-word on social media, Hammond didn’t make a snap judgement. After sitting him down for a conversation, she determined that he wasn’t truly racist, just unaware. She found this to be a teachable moment and provided him with materials to broaden his horizons.
The NECA-IBEW training center trustees were set on dismissing the apprentice, but Hammond reasoned with the committee stating that this culture was pervasive within the trades and he had just been caught. He was allowed to stay in the program and just recently graduated into journeyman status. Hammond still stays in contact with him. She saw this also as an opportunity to hire a consultant to evaluate the problem and provide recommendations to the training center.
Being raised with a strong support system gave Hammond the mental fortitude to persevere in the face of adversity. She hopes that sharing the experiences she’s had throughout her life will help in her newest project, a “solidarity circle.” By initiating crucial conversations, the group aims to rethink the industry, countering the expectation that women and people of color adapt to the status quo.
For over a century, NECA/IBEW Local 48’s electricians have helped build Oregon and southwest Washington. NECA and IBEW Local 48 have partnered in labor-management relations to lead the region’s electrical industry, working on such high profile projects as the Rose Garden Arena, Portland International Airport and MAX Light Rail stations. Learn more about a career in the electrical industry at www.necaibew48.com.
Article Source: Vancouver WA Business Journal