Principal Officer, Beaudoin & Company LLC
Working in labor is rarely dull, but the recession and a rightward swing in national politics have made the past few years especially fraught.
Luckily for Heather Beaudoin, those obstacles have translated into renewed energy in organized labor.
“What happened in Wisconsin has really mobilized a lot of union members who hadn’t been as active in the past,” Beaudoin said, referring to antiunion legislation passed there last year. “I’ve seen members become much more engaged and active, because they want to make sure what happened in other states won’t happen here in New York.”
Beaudoin founded her company four years ago, after working for larger political and labor organizations for years. “I like to work on a variety of issues, and when you work for one organization, you often have to focus on one issue,” Beaudoin said. “This company gives me the opportunity to work on the many issues I’m passionate about.”
Right now that involves mainly working with the Transport Workers Union, the Teamsters, and the Building and Construction Trades Council, alongside partner Rebecca Lynch. And as of recently, Beaudoin’s dog, Jack, has turned Beaudoin into an animal rights activist as well. She supports the Bideawee shelter on Manhattan’s East Side, and encourages her colleagues to adopt rescue dogs like Jack.
How did you get your start?
I started off working in politics. My first political campaign was for Ruth Messinger for mayor, as an intern when I was still in college. I worked my way up, and then started working more directly in labor, through the Mason Tenders District Council and the Working Families Party. Then I did work with a number of unions, like the transport workers, and became the political director at the Central Labor Council, before I decided to start my own company.
On balance, has being a woman helped or hurt?
I’m usually the only “Heather” to walk into the room, and that helps people to remember me. It’s easier to be a woman in labor politics than it used to be, thanks to a lot of women who have paved the way. The barriers have slowly dissipated and you see more female faces at labor tables now. You’ll always have a situation where you run into some backwards person who’s going to give you a hard time, but I’ve learned over the years to just not take that as the norm. You just have to barrel through it.
What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?
I had people tell me not to go into business on my own. They said, “It’s very difficult; it’s not going to work.” But I have no regrets. There are a lot of demands to being a small business— I work a lot more hours now than I think I ever have—but it’s enormously rewarding to able to set my own schedule and only work on issues that are really important to me.
Tags: Beaudoin and Company, Bideawee, Building and Construction Trades Council, Central Labor Council, dogs, Heather Beaudoin, labor, mason-tenders, organizing, Rebecca Lynch, Ruth Messinger, Teamsters, Transport Workers Union, Unions, Wisconsin, Working Families Party
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