As the mother of three, Martina Taite was looking for a way to make a better life for her family when she discovered the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi—and the Boilermakers union.
A member of Local 693 since 2008, she’s spent the past 13 years rising as a leader, both formally and informally. Most recently, she was elected as president of her 1,800-member local lodge; and in April, North America’s Building Trades Unions named her as a Tradeswoman Hero.
But Taite’s role as a hero began somewhat humbly and in an unlikely place: in the bathroom at work.
L-693 Boilermaker sister and former lodge president Erica Stewart describes Taite as a good listener with whom other women feel comfortable confiding their concerns and frustrations. Taite began seeking out Stewart during bathroom breaks to relay women’s concerns.
“Martina is a very caring person who empathizes, but she also speaks the truth. And she wanted to make a change, so she would sort of find me and bring up little issues she saw,” Stewart says. “Other women saw her as a sort of spokesperson.”
Recognizing Taite’s leadership skills, Stewart encouraged her to become more involved with the union so she could better represent her sisters’ issues. Taite says she took the advice to heart and got active, stepping up whenever the local asked for volunteers. She proved herself as a leader and a valuable team player, and she sought platforms to advocate for her sisters at the shipyard.
“That wasn’t easy,” says Stewart, who is an International Rep and the Boilermakers National Coordinator of Women in the Trades Initiatives for the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund. “She withstood a lot of hateful comments when she started getting involved and especially when she started to take on leadership roles.”
Taite’s leadership path took her from steward and lead crew assistant to chief steward. Then she was elected as the local’s recording secretary and she served on the local’s Bylaws Committee and Apprenticeship Committee. She also got into organizing, and Stewart credits her with leading the local into a growth spurt.
“She’s a good leader—and a leader who is able to identify and cultivate other leaders,” Stewart says. “That’s what we, as tradeswomen leaders, need to do: When we, as women, achieve leadership roles, we need to reach our hands out to lift other women up with us—and that’s what Martina does.”
In addition to her role as L-693 president, Taite is assistant chief steward and metal trades coordinator at the shipyard, and she is an active participant in the new Boilermakers’ Women’s Caucus. Perhaps most important, she is now also a self-proclaimed “doting grandmother” to grandson Kadarrius.
Watch a video about the inaugural Boilermakers Women’s Caucus, featuring Martina Taite. https://vimeo.com/356501425