Judith Mejia Melendez is a painter at the New Flyer Industries bus factory in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Judith Melendez

Never tell Judith Melendez that she cannot do something. “I am the kind of person that thinks if someone can do it then we all can, if a man can do it  then we [women] can also.”

For over two years, Judith Melendez has been working as a painter at the New Flyer factory in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Melendez made her transition into transit manufacturing when after 10 years of working at Electro Lutz, she decided to change jobs. “At that job, I felt trapped. I knew I could do something else,” she said.  When the opportunity arose to work in transit manufacturing, Melendez leapt at the chance.

“I do not regret taking that opportunity. It was a risk I was taking and it has been worth it. It’s great that I could be in the same company with my husband. We work the same shift and the same department. I feel I have been able to grow in the labor aspect. I no longer feel trapped.”

But making the jump to labor-intensive work wasn’t all easy. Early on, Melendez knew that she would encounter men that believed that women weren’t right for this line of work.

“It’s a bit difficult because men in general do not think us women can do the job that they can do,” said Melendez.

“Sometimes, it is a bit hard for me because the men are somewhat stronger. They sometimes pick up objects that are somewhat heavy with no problem, and it’s difficult for me because I am not as strong as them, but I find a way to do it where I won’t get hurt or force myself.”

Working in transit manufacturing, a largely male dominated field, Judith has learned to grow and challenge preconceived notions of what a woman can and cannot do.

“I don’t want to say we women are the same as men and of course we are not, but its a job that a woman can do,” she said. “it just requires more physical work and its a harder job because it requires strength and constant work and to just prepare mentally to complete it.  But I think anyone can do it.”

Melendez, a Latina woman that speaks primarily Spanish, doesn’t believe in allowing limitations to hold you back.  “The limitations are sometimes made by us and we make excuses,” she says.  “But I think anyone in the world can do this job . If I can, anyone can.”
“Just because we are women it doesn’t make us incapable of doing a job. […] This is proof that women have the strength to develop any kind of work for any company no matter what we are trying to do.”