The Electrical Worker online
February 2024

My IBEW Story
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Karen Remondi, Journeyman wirewoman (retired)
Hartford, Conn., Local 35

"I was a single mom, just divorced from an abusive relationship with no car and no child support, and I needed to build a life for me and my daughter, Jamilyn.

I got through the emergency and found a steady job as a buyer at the Colt Armory in Hartford. But we still weren't independent.

In 1996, Jamilyn turned 10 and we got our first car and could stop taking the bus everywhere. A vendor, a gentleman who ran a machinery company, said I should get a trade. I guess he thought I was smart and did a good job.

I found out about a pilot pre-apprenticeship program run by the state's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and the state Department of Labor. The goal was to get women who were financially insecure into the trades.

I applied, took the test and was accepted. I worked during the day and went to school at night. When it was done, I knew I wanted to be an electrician and there was no way I was going to be nonunion. I took the apprenticeship exam for Hartford Local 35, and soon I was accepted into the program.

It was hard at first. There were too many people who didn't want women there. I was the first female apprentice in several years. For a long time, the only time I touched wire was putting it in the trash. But quitting was never an option. It was for my family, and I don't quit.

And there were some amazing journeymen who did like having women in the union, including all five of the Calderon brothers. Those guys literally saved me.

And the local changed. I built a career and I never had to worry that I was being paid less than a man, because we had a contract. Things are very different at Local 35 now than back at the beginning.

I raised Jamilyn. I had summer activities for her to do. I was able to afford everything I needed, and I got help but didn't rely on it. Most single moms don't have that freedom, and it isn't right. That's why I always mother-henned the new ladies in the field and our own female apprentices. I'd tell them the rules: No makeup. Dress sensibly. Work hard. And don't date in your local or your trade.

I don't follow all the rules. I married a guy in the local, Glen Remondi, in 2011.

He retires this year. I retired in 2020.

More women should look at the trades and see what they offer: stability, opportunity and independence."