For Amy Gray-Schlink, a woman’s place is shoulder to shoulder with everyone else, and she has found that in her role as a utility plumber working on water mains with the SFPUC’s Water Department.
Gray-Schlink believes that knowledge and skills are not biologically doled out based on sex or gender. “I’m a good plumber and a reliable coworker! And also because that’s just how every workplace should be,” she shared. “We need access to good paying jobs with union protections just like everyone else, because we are often the head of the household or the sole breadwinner.”
She explained how important it would be to see more women and women of color in nontraditional trades at the water department and the City. Gray-Schlink expressed how she is currently the only female plumber at the SFPUC. Several years ago, another female plumber, Lily Preciado, passed away. “She was a great co-worker and is missed every day,” Gray-Schlink shared.
In reflection of Women’s History Month and its significance, Gray-Schlink shared how she is inspired by brave women activists from around the world, their struggles fighting for more equitable pay and safety on the job, to improving the experiences of immigrant workers in every country. “When a fire broke out in a factory in New York City, killing mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women seamstresses, the early feminist movement, the labor movement, and the socialist movement united to fight for vast improvements and declared March 8 to be International Women’s Day. Their fighting spirit is still resonating, and very much needed, today,” she shared.
Gray-Schlink stressed how women have the skills and the vision to be what they want to be, but are too often held back because many industries are so segregated by race or gender. “Everyone needs to work and deserves to support themselves and their families and communities,” she said.