Tradeswomen Tuesday: Calli Frehmeyer, Journeyman Laborer, Local 310, Cleveland

What trade is your trade, Local, and where are you from?

My name is Calli Frehmeyer, and I’m a Journeyman Laborer with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 310 in Cleveland, Ohio for the last 26 years.

What attracted you to the trade?  How did you get your start?

When I was a kid, girls were not encouraged to take shop classes or think about occupations considered to be outside of the female norm. I ALWAYS wanted to be a construction worker. I didn’t know what construction workers actually did at the time, but I wanted to do it! My Father was a bricklayer and my hero and I wanted to be just like him. Dad was instrumental in getting me started. At first resistant to the idea of his daughter being in construction, I eventually wore him down. He put me to work for the company he was in charge of, drove me down to sign up with my union and had my Mom give me the money for my initiation fee.

What do you love most about your trade and your job?

There was a time when I loved everything about my job. Being outside all day getting dirty, working hard, learning how to mix mortar and set-up walls, driving equipment, running jack hammers - I loved it all.  As I have aged I love that I can now slow down some and its ok because that’s the way the union works.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Physically my job was never a problem, however being the only female on the job was an adjustment. Also, at times, dealing with the overwhelming racism and homophobia in the trades can be tough.

Are there any challenges you’ve experienced?  How did you overcome them?

Being on the shorter side has presented some challenges for me. Sometimes you just have to find YOUR way of doing things. Just because it works for a guy doesn’t mean it will work for you.  A good example is mortar mixers. I would always take a couple blocks and make myself a little step so I could get the 80 pound bags on top of the mixer. The guys would sometimes laugh, but it worked for me.

What skills or traits have made you successful?

Hard work hard work hard work. I have had guys say no way can a woman physically do that and BAM, I do it. Also, I am never late, never miss work and always do what my supervisors ask of me. Things that have helped me are being good at math, problem-solving and having the ability to learn easily.

What advice would you give to other women interested in becoming a tradeswoman?

GO FOR IT!! Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Expect to work hard and have to prove yourself. Be willing to except work that might not be exactly what you want.  Show up on time and every day. Don’t take the boys too seriously and have fun.

What is your vision for the future for women in the industry?

I envision a future where no women have to walk on the job and be the only female there. I envision a future where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of our differences. And most of all, I envision a future where women have their own bathroom and don’t have to share a Port-a-Potty with 50 men!