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A woman’s place is in our union

Women belong in our trade and in our union... It's up to us—as men, women and allies in the union—to welcome our sisters as equals.

Warren Fairley, International President

Warren Fairley, International President

By the time you receive your copy of the Boilermaker Reporter, Women’s History Month will have concluded its annual March observance. That doesn’t mean we stop considering and celebrating the vital role of women in our Boilermaker workforce—their role in shaping our history and, more importantly, their role instigating our union’s future success.

As women have proved throughout our union’s history, they are a quality, dependable labor force ready and equipped to weld, rig and work as equals alongside their Boilermaker brothers. Consider women’s impact in the trades in World War II—particularly in shipbuilding. Women stepped in to fill the gaps in industrial and manufacturing work as the men who traditionally held those jobs entered the armed forces efforts. Notable in our union’s history, women helped build the nearly 750 WWII ships produced at Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California. You can read more about that in "World War II opened the door to women Boilermakers." 

In fact, that era was the catalyst for the Boilermakers’ decision to officially begin admitting women members in 1942. Some 80 years later, however, women in our union’s construction sector make up just a small percentage of membership.

Yet, among the women who join our union, we often hear stories about how their Boilermaker career positively impacted their lives. From members like Marissa Collins who, before joining Local 549, struggled financially as a single mom. And members like L-146’s Kayla Vander Molen, who talks with a contagious enthusiasm about the spark she felt for her new career when she struck her first arc.

We hear these stories time and again and know that women belong in our trade and in our union. We also know that while our union contracts ensure equal pay, women sometimes face a disproportionate amount of harassment and unnecessary challenges on some jobsites.

 It's up to us—men, women and allies in the union—to bring more women into our trade, welcome our sisters as equals in our Boilermaker family, help them—as we would any new Boilermaker brother—to excel on the job, advocate for them and defend them—again, as we would our Boilermaker brothers, and give them the paths to leadership they deserve.

The Boilermakers union is in a prime time of great opportunity. With an increase in infrastructure projects amplifying the demand for a skilled and trained workforce, our contractors and employers need more Boilermakers to fulfill the glut of prospective work materializing in the United States and Canada. We need all hands on deck. And in this critical moment of opportunity, women are imperative for our union to take full advantage to the benefit of all Boilermakers.

Now, Boilermaker work isn’t for all women. It’s not for all men, either. But the women we call our sisters are as dedicated to the safety and quality of work they do as is any man on the job. They are as committed to our union and the labor movement as is any union brother.

They are, after all, Boilermakers.

In solidarity, 

Warren Fairley

International President