Brick Apprentice Kirstie Reeves Featured in NW Labor Press

Kirstie Reeves, 60% Brick Apprentice, was featured in the NW Labor Press article regarding Women in Trades.  Below is the excerpt:

Women in the Trades

by Don McIntosh

Nationwide, women account for less than 3 percent of building trades workers. What’s it like to be a woman in the overwhelmingly male construction industry? We asked three women building trades workers to share their stories.

Kirstie Reeves – Bricklayer

Kirstie Reeves, 28, was a stay-at-home mother of three small kids … until her husband decided to live a life of drugs, and became abusive. She left him, took the kids, and started over.

Seeking work that could support her family, she attended a trade fair, and considered different crafts. Reeves says bricklaying appealed to her — because she always liked Legos.

Eighteen months later, she’s a third-term apprentice bricklayer in Bricklayers and Allied Crafts Local 1, and is making $23.95 an hour, 60 percent of the journeyman wage.  

Bricklayer is an overwhelmingly male occupation. Reeves knows of only one female brick journeyman in Local 1, and she wants to be the second.

“Most people, when I said I was applying to get into the bricklayers union, thought I was nuts,” Reeves said. “As far as construction fields go, I did choose one of the harder ones. There’s a lot of heavy lifting, and you’re always on the go. There’s no stand-around time.”

At first, she was sore — very sore. She could feel muscle tearing. She ate a lot of protein. But she approached it with a boot camp mentality, and got through it. She lost a lot of weight, and gained serious muscle. Now, Reeves often carries two tongs of six or seven bricks, one in each hand.

“I like to carry two tongs, because I can, and it’s fun to watch guys’ reaction.”

At work on construction sites, she encountered crude humor, and had to get used to foremen cussing people out for minor mistakes.

“Women have to be tough mentally to do this. They always say, ‘Leave your emotions at the gate.’”

She also faced negative reactions from some coworkers.

“It’s just one of those things: Men are not used to seeing women in my trade,” Reeves says.

“When I first started, I had a lot of people discouraging me.… I got a lot of harassment from male coworkers, like, ‘Wouldn’t you rather be home with your children?’ Well, yeah, actually, I would, but that’s not really an option. I’m a single mother now. I need to provide for my kids. And I want my children to learn that they can do anything, and they can take care of themselves.”

The union package means fully-paid health care for her son and two daughters, and it pays enough for her to support her family and help her dad, who’s disabled.

Reeves says there are times — when it’s wet or snowy, and hands get numb —when she has doubts. But for the most part, she loves her work, and is proud of what she does. She spent last summer helping build South Cooper Mountain High School in Sherwood. Now she’s working for J&S Masonry on a job in Northwest Portland. There’s lots more work on the horizon.

You can read the full article here.