Janet Trout feels underpaid and underappreciated.
She puts in a full day's work next to her husband, Joseph 29, on a construction lot five days a week and then some. The Trouts who have their own two person company, drill holes 30 to 60 feet underground to hold elevator hydraulic jacks, which make elevators go up and down.
The work is demanding, but that's not the problem.
The problem is that Janet 27, the firm's sole employe. cannot get a union card from the International Union of Elevator Construction even though she has two years' experience doing what other union members do and has tried for more than six weeks to gain membership
"I'm out there doing the work, getting dirty. I don't see why I can't get paid just like everybody else." said Janet. who could double her pay by working at union scale. "I'm not hard to get along with, I just want my card."
Janet contends that her problem has to do with the fact that she's a woman, an argument rejected by John N. Russell, general secretary-treasurer of the small, 18,900-member union. He insists his Columbia-based organization does not discriminate against women or minorities.
The union's Washington local has no female members. Two women were scheduled to be tested this week for membership as "probationary helpers," an official of the local said.
"The international union doesn't just give cards to anyone," Russell said. "The (Trout's) company has to sign a standard collective bargaining agreement."
Under collective bargaining agreements, however, anyone who owns more than just 10 percent of a company cannot become a union member, according to Bob Templeton, president of theunion's Washington local No. 10.
That's deepens the couple's predicament since Joseph, who the Trouts said owns the company, wants a union card too.
Janet could sign up with the union for a card that would allow her to start as a probationary helper to a driller, Templeton said. "I can assure you if Mrs. Trout, or Ms. Trout, is looking for a job we will accept her application just as would accept anyone."
But Janet has worked as a fulltime driller for two years and believes she ought to be able to become a full fledge driller or "mechanic" if a collective bargaining agreement is worked out with her husband's company.
The Trouts contend that when other companies have signed collective bargaining agreements in the past, their employes immediately were offered full mechanic cards, allowing them to earn twice the salary of probationary helpers.
The Trouts say they are ready to sign a collective bargaining agreement and would place their company's stock in the name of one of their children in order to get union cards - and higher pay. They also said they would join the union immediately, if anyone from the union would return their phone calls and letters.
They have never been to Templeton's office although they said they have left telephone messages that have not been answered since early June and mailed certified letters to Templeton and international president E. A. Treadway.
Treadway and his assistant, Jerome A. Mullett, did not return telephone calls from a reporter.
The Trouts continue to get jobs from building contractors despite their lack of union cards. But under collective bargaining agreements signed by the contractors, the contractors are supposed to employ an elevator union stand-by man any time they hire nonunion drillers.
The stand-by man is a mechanic who is supposed to "supervise and assist" the work of nonunion employes, according to the standard agreement for 1977-1982 of the internation union. He is paid about $12 an hour.
Meanwhile , the Trouts' family lawyer, Lois H. Miller of Vienna, is looking into the possibility of legal action.
"She (Janet) is a very capable girl," said Miller. "She's not a trouble maker. She's just wants her card.