Roofers local’s new secretary-treasurer breaks ground as first woman elected to office

July has been a winning month for Samantha Schanus.

The journey-level roofer from Mora was among four Tradeswomen Heroes award winners named this month by North America’s Building Trades Unions. The monthly award highlights outstanding achievement within the ranks of the Building Trades’ affiliate unions.

And just days after receiving the honor, Schanus was sworn in as the new secretary-treasurer of Roofers Local 96, becoming the first woman to serve as an officer of the local union since its founding in 1929.

“It definitely shows we are a diverse local, and everyone’s equal,” Schanus said, pausing for an interview during her lunch break on a job at Fairmont Elementary School last month. “Anybody can hold a position, as long as they can do the job. To me, it’s a special position to be in, to have that title.”

Schanus, 30, reflected on her accomplishments since joining the Roofers union five years ago – and some of the challenges she faced along the way – in this interview, which has been lightly edited for space and content.

UA: Congratulations on the award. How did you find out you’d won?

SS: Local 96 nominated me, and they only told me after the nomination had already been sent in. Honestly, it was a privilege to be nominated, and it was even more exciting I was chosen. I never really thought that all the things I was trying to do were all that recognizable, and it was nice to know people saw the effort I put in.

UA: How did you decide to join Local 96 and pursue a roofing career?

SS: I tried out all different kinds of trades through a pre-apprenticeship program. I initially wanted to be a Laborer, but at the time they didn’t need me. So I called the Roofers.

I liked the brotherhood, and I especially liked the work. It was awesome to be physical and active and hands on.

UA: What was the reaction of family and friends to your decision?

SS: My dad wasn’t very happy. He’s a 49er (operating engineer) and wanted me to do something less invasive on my body like he does. And I think he wanted me to be a part of his working life, too. But after he could tell I enjoyed the work, he was happy for me. He was proud. Nobody ever discouraged me from working construction.

UA: How many other women typically are on the job site with you?

SS: I’m pretty much always the only one, and it’s been that way for the last two or three years. I’ve only worked with one woman before. There are days when it would be nice to have someone I could relate to other than the guys, but for the most part they’ve been very kind. I’ve had a couple incidents, but I’ve made some good friendships, good relationships too.

UA: Looking back, is there a moment when you knew you’d made it as a roofer?

SS: After my first job at a school in Eden Prairie. It took us three months to finish it and was definitely one of the worst jobs I’ve been on. It had all different kinds of personalities, I guess you’d say. I had days when I didn’t know whether to cry or quit. When I made it through that all on my own, that’s when I knew I would be making a career out of this.

UA: What do you like about working union?

SS: I like the teamwork. I like the physical, hands-on work of constructing something.

With the brotherhood, I like just knowing somebody has your back. Unions make a big difference that a lot of people don’t realize. Union wages set everyone else’s wages. Union benefits create a competitive market, so the employers who aren’t union have to do better.

It’s nice to be behind the scenes in making things better for people who aren’t in the union – and for the current brothers and sisters I have.

UA: Is that why you wanted to run for office?

SS: I always wanted to be more involved. I asked somebody to nominate me, and, low and behold, I got the position. I couldn’t have done it without all the people on the crew that helped me out, that were on my side.

UA: What would you tell other women considering a career path like yours?

SS: Don’t get discouraged until you make it to the end of your worst day. Then you can make a decision if you want to stick it out or not. It’s hard in construction. You’re going to get a lot of negativity and a lot of BS, but it can also be rewarding, too.

Comments

  1. Great article!

    >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: