LOS ANGELES – Bridge carpenter apprentice Chanel Waits did her first ever union job in downtown Los Angeles.
The 6th Street bridge replacement will be her second union job. The bridge will connect Boyle Heights with the Arts District making it almost three-quarters of a mile long. The original bridge was finished in 1932. They finished tearing it down to build the new one in 2017 because it was cracking and most likely couldn’t withstand a large earthquake.
The bridge will cross the LA River, several train rails, and the 101 Freeway.
“Its history so you already feel like a part of something incredible,” said Waits.
Waits’ dad was a carpenter. She is the youngest of three siblings and the only one to follow in his footsteps.
She is also one of 15 female craft people on this job. There are about 170 skilled laborers in total, but the ratio of men to women is finally starting to inch toward balanced.
Single mom of four Rosa Garcia used to work in retail. She is now with the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.
“It kind of was out of necessity to provide for my children, but it turned into something that I love. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” said Garcia.
They are aiming to finish the bridge in 2022. Some of the workers said you stand out as a minority on the job site.
“It gives you a platform truthfully to rely change the stereotypes because people are always watching,” said Waits.
The new bridge will have room for bikes, pedestrians, and two lanes of traffic in both directions.