The best aspect of the book is that it has been written by an individual who is qualified to write on the subject in the true sense of the term. Susan Eisenberg is the national level artist/scholar and she is a master electrician. She is eminently equipped to lead and enlighten tradeswomen’s aspirations both at the national and international levels. She has given lectures in bodies like the International Labor Organization in Geneva. She has successfully created entry for the women in non-traditional male-dominated occupations. She has done it so by example, by actually being gainfully employed as an Electrician.
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As for the contents of this book she has used the ethnographic methodology, firstly by recording the interviews of 30 tradeswomen and then she has come out with the thematic recounting of the stories. This is not an easy job, unless one has the actual study in the field in which one is attempting to write. Her stories have the mark of unchallengeable authenticity.
The working women, especially those engaged in non-traditional occupations, have many constraints and challenges. Firstly, they need to balance wok and family. Gender-bias by co-workers, harassment, unfavorable employers and unions! The limitations as for their physical strength! Their only asset to face all these odd situations is the new-found inner strength.
About three decades ago, she caused ‘electric shock’ to the security guard when she wished to report for duty as union electrician; he refused her entry, because women had never done such jobs here before. In 1978, the federal government came out with its ambitious plans for opening construction work to women and projected that women would constitute 6.9 % of the industry’s workforce. But that did not materialize, against many odds like hostility, physical violence and abuse by male co-workers.
Susan Eisenberg began her apprenticeship with Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1978. She thought she would be part of the historic transformation in America, and she would be the leading force in it, but instead she became the historic author, to write on behalf of electricians, painters, ironworkers, plumbers and carpenters. The book contains the descriptions of trials, tribulations, duty and beauty involved in the process of discharging their responsibilities and also difficult achievements.
The book covers interesting topics like, Exceptional Men, Carrying Weight, Customized Treatment; women of Color, Ceilings and Access Panels; Economics, Expansion Joints, etc.
In the Chapter ‘Footings’ Susan Eisenberg covers observations of the some of the suffering women and the social conditions that hurled them into the job market. They wished to be gainfully employed by sheer grit. Such working women liked the challenge of competing with men. One such woman, Paulete Jourdan, interviewed by Susan has something to say about her upbringing and the attitude of her parents. “They were very religious, fundamentalist religious, and he didn’t ever want her to work. There were six kids and they raised us sort of like, you’re in this world, but you’re not of this world. We were sheltered. I didn’t know anything. We were never allowed to go anywhere. We had very few friends.”(p,7) The story of Randy Loomas is something different. She says, “Because my husband didn’t want me to……But I always wanted to work, and it was a kind of struggle between me and he…in 1981 we divorced….the actual traditional housewife role didn’t fit my needs.”(Eisenberg, 1998, p.8)
As for Cynthia Long, a Chinese girl, it was the sexual abuse that ruined her educational career and to some extent her life. The racial aspect also had a telling effect in her efforts to get a decent job and to improve her lot in life. She says, “I went to College at State University of New York at Buffalo between 1973 and 1975. At the time, I couldn’t have told you why I left. Now, I am able to say that the reason that I dropped out of college was because I experienced date rape and I psychologically was unable to cope with that and ended up having to leave. It was quite an extreme disappointment to me personally, as well as feeling embarrassed and ashamed that I flunked out of college.”(p, 9)
“In 1964 Congress passed Public Law 82-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. Subsequent legislation expanded the role of the EEOC. Today, according to the U. S. Government Manual of 1998-99, the EEOC enforces laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age in hiring, promoting, firing, setting wages, testing, training, apprenticeship, and all other terms and conditions of employment. Race, color, sex, creed, and age are now protected classes.”(The Civil…)
Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 24, 1965, was historic and precedent-shattering. It mainly relates to Equal Employment Opportunity. The Order “prohibits federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
The Contractors had the additional follow-up responsibility. They were required to take tangible action pans to augment the participation of minorities and women in workplace. They must have a set program for every aspect of the issue like equal opportunity policy statement, current work force review, tackle problem areas, goals specified –all this should be done as per the set time-table.
The success of the legislations and the efforts of the Government have begun to yield tangible results. A $34 million settlement in a sexual harassment case with Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America is one of the landmark judgments. About 48,000 cases pertaining to various types of harassment and anti-labor actions are processed annually.
The problem with women in USA was more or less the same as obtaining all over the world in the 1970s.From the social point of view, the interpretation of the old customs and traditions did not favor the girl child. It was but natural for women like Susan Eisenberg to rebel against them. But stretching this issue too much would not contribute to social good in the long run. Ancient values and traditions are not to be discarded in toto, under the banner of civil rights. Civil rights should not lead to societal wrongs. Just as it is a kind of prejudice to accept all the ancient customs unquestioningly so it is, undoubtedly, an equal kind of prejudice to reject the same unquestioningly in toto. So every social custom, old or new, is to be judged strictly on merit and merit alone. The duty of the State and society lies in imparting true education to all women in society. As an outcome of that education they will of themselves be able to know what is good for them and what is bad, and will spontaneously eschew the latter. It will not be then necessary to pull down or set up anything by coercion. Women must be put in a position to solve their own problems in their own ways. No one can nor ought to do this for them.
Eisenberg, Susan: Book: We'll Call You If We Need You:
Publisher: Cornell University Press (April 1998)
Article: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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