Construction workers ditching catcalls

WASHINGTON — The catcalls and salacious commentary that generations of American construction workers rained down on passing women are fading, according to many women and to workers who say they've reformed.

Complaints by women on the street — and on the job — raised their sensitivity, construction company supervisors said.

“In our company, if someone is caught doing something like that, we call the subcontractor company and they're removed from the job site,” said Greg Clark, 52, a senior superintendent for James G. Davis Construction Corp., which has many sites in the Washington area.

Adonis Hernandez, 37, assistant superintendent at a Davis site in downtown Washington, recalled one case:

“A girl was passing by with a dog and a worker said to her in Spanish: ‘Como quisiera ser ese perrito para que me anduvieras jalando' (I wish I were that dog so you could pull me around.) She asked me to translate it to her and she laughed, but then she made a complaint.”

The subcontractor exiled the worker to leafy Loudoun County, Va., where passing skirts are scarce.

About the worst thing a catcaller could do is seek the attention of Mai Shiozaki, press secretary for the National Organization for Women.

“I've filed five complaints in the last two years,” she said. “As a feminist, I don't sit back. After I complain, I usually call the site manager to see if they took any action.'”

Catcalls haven't declined when she runs in the morning, she said, but they're no longer “outwardly disgusting.”

“It's more like a ‘hey baby' or ‘your body is amazing!' “

Women who said they once got lots of catcalls say they've noticed the pall.

“It's not as common anymore! You don't hear it as often. Construction workers used to holler at me,” said Denise Woodson, 37.

Vivian Price, a former union electrician who teaches interdisciplinary studies at California State University-Dominguez Hills, credits the growing number of women in construction.

Kris Paap, a sociologist at the State University of New York Institute of Technology who worked three years as a carpenter's apprentice, offered another explanation. As women gained power, she said, their complaints gained weight.