Equal Opportunity Day Honoree Michael Burch

Introducing the 2021 Equal Opportunity Day Honoree!


Michael Burch

Michael is a native Oregonian, raised in a diverse neighborhood in Northeast Portland with two siblings. He attended Highland Elementary and then went out of his district to Benson Polytechnic high school. The draft took lots of young men from his neighborhood and those returning were often seriously injured or in body bags. Instead of waiting to be drafted, he signed up for the Air Force Reserves. After 8 months on active duty, he spent the next six years as an Air Evacuation Specialist.  

Immediately after active duty he enrolled at the University of Oregon and spent the next five years earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and attending law school for one year. After college he worked a variety of jobs with increasing frustration because of the lack of opportunities or upward mobility available to young Black men. All his life he’d been told education was the key to success and the doorway to opportunity. As it turned out, those opportunities were very limited and, mostly not extended to educated Black men in Portland in the late 70’s. After a decade of attempting to prove his worth to a variety of employers, he decided to try a career move to something that fed his spirit instead of his pocket.  

Most of this new career placed him in an alternative school setting serving low-income youth ages 16 – 25 years of age. After 16 years he left that setting and began his career as a Community Relations and Outreach Representative for the Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters in November of 2010.  

Michael is a community activist, relationship builder, organizer, problem solver and ambassador of the working middle class. He sits on two Joint Apprenticeship & Training Councils for the Regional Council, works on special projects, and supports local, and state political candidates and other tasks as assigned. 

He is also sitting on several boards and commissions representing the Carpenters efforts to diversify the construction industry. Some of the boards, councils and commissions of note are Director of Portland YouthBuilders, Constructing Hope, All Hands Raised, Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity, Fair Contracting Forum and the Oregon State Apprenticeship and Training Council.  

In his spare time, he spends time with friends, fishing, drag racing, some off-roading and hanging out with his daughters and four grandchildren.