Green Women, Healthy Voices: Sylvia Sabon

Photography by Inye Wokoma / ljo Arts Media Group

Prioritize green jobs and opportunities for low income women and people of color

Sylvia Sabon got her start in the construction industry through a community hiring agreement won by the Seattle-based grassroots group LELO that prioritized low income women and workers of color for Sound Transit jobs. In 2008 Sylvia was laid off from her job as an office worker with Kiewit Construction – a major contractor with Sound Transit.

I think a lot of women are asking ‘are there really green jobs?’ They’re out there looking for cashiers jobs, restaurant jobs, and clerical jobs; because when you’re looking for jobs you don’t really see a category called ‘green jobs.’

I’m an Alaskan Native, and on Sound Transit when I was working in the construction trailer, I was the only brown face around… We won a contract that made those companies hire women and people of color. That’s how I got in the door.

But more companies need to have requirements to hire people from the Rainier Valley and our communities. They should have the requirement to hire local women, local workers; Without agreements like these and buy-in from the contractors, you submit your resume, application and they most likely say ‘thank you for your time.’ And they’re going to hire someone from outside the city limits – from Gig Harbor, Auburn. And we’re saying, ‘we’re right here. Why don’t you hire us? The job site is only ten minutes away from my house’… a lot of us are going to those job shacks, signing the list, but we’re not getting hired. And we want jobs. All we want is an opportunity for a chance.

Now we have to talk about green jobs and what they mean for women of color. It rains a lot in Seattle, it’s damp and cold and it creates a lot of mold – especially if you don’t have a lot of ventilation and insulation. It will create a healthier environment if buildings can get weatherized, our children will have less asthma, and it will create more green jobs…

A number of us single parents, we went to training, we’re ready to work, but we need a more fair economy.

Got Green will be celebrating the International Day of Action on Climate Change on September 24th a little differently than other actions nationwide by releasing a report on what low-income women and people of color have to say about their priorities for the green movement- to change the climate of our communities.

Click here to join Got Green on Saturday, September 24 from 12-2 PM at South Lake High School in Rainier Beach (8601 Rainier Ave S, 98118) as we release our report, Women in the Green Economy: Voices from SE Seattle. Free healthy lunch and childcare provided.

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