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Boilermakers find inspiration and solidarity at national tradeswomen conference

“It’s amazing how all the women stay together here. There’s no union divide. Everybody is for everybody. It’s empowering.”
— Vicki White, Local 146

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Participants at Women Build Nations gather before the solidarity parade in Chicago.

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From left, Demitria Mathews, Helena Ringo and Alison Wilson, from Local 684, celebrate the power of female Boilermakers.

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Local 4’s Christina Homolka makes a point at the Boilermaker caucus.

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Tatum Keister, from Local 83, speaks on “Ladders to Success.”

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Local 647 fourth-year apprentice Amanda Leciejewski left the conference with knowledge on how to form a woman’s committee at her local. The conference inspired her to face challenges with courage. “I learned to be that girl. Speak up. Don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the sister that’s coming up behind you.”

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L-83’s Crystal Spratley attended Women Build Nations for a second year. She came back to help mentor some of her Local 83 sisters and bring them through the process of empowerment and education.

Event draws over 1,600 from US, Canada

FROM APPRENTICES TO journeymen, 36 female Boilermakers joined over 1,600 tradeswomen at the 2017 Women Build Nations conference in Chicago October 13-15 to learn about the special challenges and opportunities facing women in the construction industry. This year’s conference, sponsored by North America’s Building Trades Unions and the Chicago Women in Trades, brought together women from all crafts and regions for networking and support.

Plenary sessions hosted local politicians and speakers from various unions. Several women working in the trades spoke on achieving success in a male-dominated industry.

During a session titled “Ladders of Success,” Local 83 (Kansas City, Missouri) dispatcher Tatum Keister, spoke about earning respect on the job. “If you want good brothers, be a good sister,” she said. Others in the session discussed pathways to leadership roles and cited examples of how unions are successfully paving the way for increased female engagement.

Dozens of break-out sessions addressed topics of relevance to women in the construction trades. Two breakouts featured Boilermaker speakers. Erica Stewart, International Rep and President of Local 693, spoke as part of a panel on rising to a leadership role in a union. Stewart offered tips on getting elected to officer roles in local lodges. In a breakout on careers, Jamie McMillan from Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta) spoke on ways to interest young women in the skilled trades. Other breakouts included workshops on organizing, increasing the number of female apprentices, workplace equality, sexual harassment, labor law and jobsite safety.

The Great Lakes Section sponsored a Boilermakers’ caucus at the conference where attendees engaged in lively discussions on the challenges of their careers and priorities for increasing the number of women in the union. International Vice President Larry McManamon led the discussions. Mark Wertz, Boilermaker National Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, answered questions on the apprenticeship program and BNAP’s support in attracting women to the union.

“This conference allows us to hear the concerns from our sisters in the field, and helps us to know how we can attract and keep females in our industry,” said Wertz. “In the past, many women may not have considered boilermaking a viable career option, simply because construction was considered a ‘man’s job.’ Fortunately, a lot of progress has been made over the years. We know that being a Boilermaker is for anyone who wants to work hard and dedicate themselves to quality craftsmanship — man or woman.”

Vicki White from Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta) came to Women Build Nations for a second year in a row to bring back information to the women in her local and for inspiration. “It’s amazing how all the women stay together here. There’s no union divide. Everybody is for everybody. It’s empowering.”

Also participating were, from Local 1 (Chicago), Jamie Crandall and Justin Gustafson; Local 29 (Boston), Amanda Green; Local 83 (Kansas City, Missouri), JoAnne Adkins, Ruth Fouts, Michele Nagle and Crystal Spratley; Local 104 (Seattle), Breanna Cross and Christina Homolka; Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta), Angela Coombs, Stephanie Hamilton, Robert Key, Myste Loewen, Alida Nourry and Tennille Vizzuso; Local 154 (Pittsburgh), Carrie Wagner; Local 374 (Hammond, Indiana), Jessica Ofman and Ismael Sulivan; Local 674 (Minneapolis), Jessica Bruneau, Carey Kowalski and Amanda Leciejewski; Local 684 (Norfolk, Virginia), Demitria Mathews, Helena Ringo and Alison Wilson; Great Lakes Area Apprenticeship Program, Wanda Conroy, Stephanie Ecker, Lawrence McManamon Jr. and Julie Smith; and IBB Researcher Debbie Goodwin.

Tags  Headline News
Published on the Web: November 28, 2017

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