Even before Meg-Anne Pryor’s interview begins, she is already on a call in her Burlingame office with one of her 75 apprentices.
She is approachable yet assertive over the phone, and as the first African-American female District Apprentice Coordinator in Operating Engineers Local 3 Union history, it is not hard to see why.
Pryor is very clear about her intentions of setting a high bar and being a living example of what is possible when hard work is matched with perseverance.
“People call me, from apprentices to employers, to other business agents, other dispatchers, and people who are looking to become apprentices in our program,” said Pryor. “Parents call me for their kids.”
As an Apprentice Coordinator for District 1, Pryor is responsible for apprentices in San Francisco, Burlingame, and the surrounding area.
“I make sure that they go to school and get their training for two weeks,” said Pryor. “I also make sure their employers are happy with their work and make sure they’re happy with their employer and getting trained properly on their equipment.”
But before she made history at Local 3, she herself was an apprentice who was hoping for a shot in the construction industry.
Pryor grew up in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco and worked there as an apprentice and as a journeywoman. After a friend told her about CityBuild, she joined the pre-apprenticeship training program and then got placed into the Operators trade.
It was in the Operators trade where Pryor found something that she loved and that put her well on her way to a career path in construction.
“Growing up I’ve always been a tomboy and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I didn’t want to be in an office nine-to-five, which is ironic,” she laughed, “because now I’m in an office.”
“Construction was so appealing to me because you could make a living wage. I was working a couple dead-end jobs and I thought to myself, ‘How am I ever going to support myself? How am I ever going to have a family and buy a house?’”
Pryor said that CityBuild let her know as an apprentice just how important it was to support and stay involved in her union, something she says stuck with her and stays with her to this day.
“CityBuild really hits you with being on time, coming in early, and giving an extra effort of 110 percent,” said Pryor. “Especially for the Unions, you are as good as your weakest union member, meaning the unions are only as strong as their strongest members.”
Pryor said that construction is already a tough field, but as an African American and as a woman, the industry can be downright harsh.
“On some of the job sites, you know, it’s difficult not only being a woman but also a woman of color,” said Pryor. “A lot of the men wouldn’t talk to you, they wouldn’t help you, especially if you’re an operator because operators are listed or seen as a higher skilled trade. We’re the best of the best.”
Although some of the biggest roadblocks and barriers for Pryor were her co-workers on job sites, she stayed focused on her career goals and didn’t let anyone or anything throw her off track.
“It’s just like, ‘Hey, I’m just here to learn. I’m just here to advance my career. I’m not trying to stop anybody else’s shine,’” said Pryor. “But unfortunately, not all the time it’s seen like that, so that is one of the biggest obstacles I faced being in the field.”
Pryor said that it was staff at the SFPUC, like Brian Thomas and Zelda Saeli, who helped her secure jobs as an apprentice and who now help her in her current role as a district coordinator.
“I met them both when I was in CityBuild and they have really helped me as a coordinator,” said Pryor. “It’s like everything is starting to come full circle. You work with these guys and you see what they do and you see how awesome they are and how much they help apprentices, and so now you get to work with them side-by-side. It’s amazing and I’m very fortunate. They were helping me get jobs and now they’re helping my apprentices get jobs. It’s pretty cool. I really enjoy it.”
Pryor noted, the Operating Engineers Local 3 has worked successfully with the SFPUC to implement several project-specific training programs, such as the 80-hour jobsite safety, grade setting and heavy equipment Global Positioning Systems train program. Our two agencies recognize and support a shared interest in providing effective career pathways to residents of the SFPUC service area through OE Apprenticeship and collaborative trainings.
For now, Pryor enjoys her role as a district coordinator and uses the lessons from her time as an apprentice to her help those who are counting on her so that they can start their careers and support their families.
One of Pryor’s apprentices is Jewelia Haynes, a new operator that has been previously profiled on the SFPUC Newsroom.
“My goals for the near future are to continue to be a great coordinator and to continue to help my apprentices succeed and complete their program, whether it’s crane or mechanics or CEO, I just want to be there and help them as much as I can and be an asset to my union,” said Pryor.
“I would just want to make sure that I set the bar really high for the next person that comes along.”