United Association, Local 290 in Portland, Oregon
“I didn’t have a lot of challenges entering the trade because I grew up in the trade,’” says Marie Lake, a Steamfitter from Eugene, Oregon. Marie has almost 20 years of experience as a steamfitter and member of Local 290 of the United Association in Portland, Oregon, thanks to her father’s inspiration. Marie grew up watching her dad work as a steamfitter, attending events with him, walking the picket lines, and truly learning the tricks of the trade. It was her father that inspired her to join the union, in December 1995.
Marie counts herself lucky to have been able to go to school and work with her dad every day for the first two years of her apprenticeship. Her dad was her teacher. She says, “He inspired me. He taught me. He would beat things into my head until they clicked.” Marie is a third-generation union member—her grandfather was a plumber and her father and uncle were steamfitters. It’s safe to say working in the trades is a family business for Marie Lake. But, that was not all that attracted Marie to the trades.
Marie was also interested in working in the trades because the pay is good, there is the ability to travel and a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood among tradespeople. She speaks of a bond that you don’t get with an everyday job, saying that, “We all know what we’re there to achieve, we have a common goal and we follow through. And, if anyone needs anything along the way we’re there to help each other through it.” It is the sense of community on the job, as well as the job itself, that inspires Marie every day. She loves following blueprints, doing layouts, soldering, reading a print, and setting a pipe. Her job also provides her with the financial stability to take care of her kids and spend time with them since her work hours mimic the hours her children are in school. She credits her job with teaching her children that women can do anything men can do. Often, when she is riding around town with her kids, they will say, “Hey look, my mom helped build that place.” The ability to provide a positive example to her children and spend time with them because of her work is very valuable to Marie and continues the family ties that attracted her to the trades in the first place.
Marie’s father instilled in her a deep love, appreciation, and respect for the trades and her job. She loves her job and values her union as well, making sure she gives back by volunteering. Her advice for future tradeswomen is to volunteer as much as you can for your local, further your education, and respect everyone on the job. She says that, “It’s okay to have a disagreement, but I don’t care the age or rank of the person. They are just as important as you. We’re here to do a job and finish it.” It was Marie’s father who got her interested in the trades, and it is her love, appreciation, and respect for her work that has made her successful over the last 19 years in the trade.