Back in the 50s and 60s, everyone knew about unions and lots of people belonged to them. Now, only 14.8 million people -- 11.1 percent of the nation's workforce -- belong to unions, so it's not a surprise that 18 young ladies, grades 7 to 12, hadn't known much about them until they attended Camp MAGIC in Philadelphia this week.
"I didn't know a lot about unions," said Ashley Hawk, of Pottstown, who will be a 7th grader in the fall. "It's not something you hear about a lot."
But this week, the girls are learning a lot about unions. MAGIC stands for Mentoring a Girl in Construction and the camp was founded and is run by the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction to encourage girls to enter the field of construction at any level, from CEO to carpenter. Each day, they've been visiting a different union apprentice training centers for hands-on activities. So far, they've been to the centers that train painters, glaziers, drywall finishers, steam fitters, sprinkler fitters, plumbers, brick layers, tile workers and electricians. On Wednesday afternoon, they were making tool boxes at the carpenters' apprentice training center in Northeast Philadelphia.
So, while the aim of the group was to bring women into construction, it also served the purpose of informing the young ladies about unions.
Ashley wasn't the only person who hadn't heard of unions.
"Absolutely nothing," is what Kamaya Finn-Ailer, 12, of Havertown, answered when I asked her what she had known about unions before the start of the camp. I asked her what she thought about them now.
"Pretty cool," she said. "They give you a chance to learn something. They are organizations that give people a chance to learn to work in a trade."