International Union of Elevator Constructors, Local 131, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Local Representative, Field Service Mechanic in Southeastern, NM
“Being an activist and advocating for women to be hired in the elevator trade has been my life’s work,” says LJ Dolin, a Local Representative Field Service Mechanic in Southeastern New Mexico. LJ has almost 20 years of experience as an elevator contructor, leader, and activist. She got her union card in 1995 and began a long trek to elevator mechanic. She says, “This is when I became an activist. The elevator trade was the only trade that did not have an apprenticeship program, so I advocated for one and that worked.” As a result of her advocacy, the trade opened an apprenticeship program in 2000. Shortly after, in 2002, LJ became a mechanic. LJ’s dedication to her trade and advocating for what is right within her trade is what has allowed her to have the career she does today and be someone future tradeswomen can follow and look up to.
LJ started out in Local 8 in San Franciso, CA and ended up in Local 131 in Alburquerque, New Mexico in 1995 after trying to enter the union for 5 years. She was attracted to the elevator trade because it would allow her to use the same tools and skills in skyscrapers as she had as a military auto fleet mechanic. She says, “ I got out of the army and needed a job. I looked for something high-paying and still using the same skills–the elevator trade seemed like the right place to go.” She joined the union because she realized that having her union card would enable her to live and work in any location she wanted.
LJ’s union card enabled her to move to the east and west coasts, [fj1] and then years later to move back home. She is now a Local Representative (LR) Field Service Mechanic in Southeasterm New Mexico, her home state. While on the east coast she was a member of Local 141 in Springfield, MA. She now covers all of Southeastern New Mexico for her company, serving 12 towns on her route saying that, “Usually people are very happy to see me, because I come to fix or maintain their elevator.”
LJ is happy with her job and career now in spite of the hardships she has faced over time. It took her five years to get started in her first probationary period and over two years to get six months of experience. She points to affirmative action goals on worksites as helping her get into the trade, saying that, “Affirmative Action was the only viable lever to get me on the job site.” When asked what has made her successful over time, she credits her perseverance. She says, “There is no other word, perseverance has made me successful.”
Next month, LJ will be celebrating almost 20 years in the trade. When asked about her thoughts towards the future she said, “I am optimistic about the future for women because the number of people advocating for women in these jobs seems to be growing.” She encourages those coming behind her to “Be an advocate. Be an activist. Even Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotoyamor has benefited from affirmative action and advocated for it. We have to get officials to understand the importance of keeping affirmative action alive.”
While LJ thinks that more work can be done in order to increase the numbers of women in the elevator trade, she is happy with the progress that has taken place over the course of her career. LJ encourages those coming behind her to continue to be activists and advocate for what is right. She believes that if future tradeswomen and tradeswomen allies continue this work, the future will be bright.
by Gabrielle Hickmon