EPIC’s Kimberly Cicero recently attended the 9th Annual Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference in Minnesota. The event is a multi-craft, union-sponsored conference sponsored by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), with additional donations and support received by many international unions, industry suppliers, and contractors.
As the NABTU website notes, it is often difficult for women to work in trades because they find they are the only woman, or one of a very few women, out on the job site. Being in a room with 2,000+ other tradeswomen who share a similar experience, is key to helping women break the isolation they may feel at work.
This conference inspires the tradeswomen sent by Local Unions to feel more positive about their Local Unions, to advocate for the building trades, and to take more responsibility—on the job and in their unions.
Thoughts from Kimberly Cicero
I was moved to tears as I listened to stories of these tradeswomen and how their careers in labor began. I was humbled and proud of how they managed work, family, and sense of self. They were women from all backgrounds, nationalities, and economic standings. Most were generational union workers with such admiration for their fathers, grandfathers, and uncles.
They confided with their sisters about how life had failed them in one way or another – from divorce, poverty, drug abuse – and how they found a feeling of family at their local union. Their journeys were hopeful; however, their struggles continue with abuse, sexism, and violence in the workplace. These women came together to share their experiences and gain knowledge, not to persecute their harassers but to shed light and demand change and equality.
I have nothing but respect for these women and how they found hope in a trade that will provide solid benefits, purpose, and the future they deserve.
From organizations across the country such as Build A Life in Massachusetts and Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) in New York, to Oregon Tradeswomen, these groups are creating such an important awareness to women in the labor market. I love that recognition is spreading and we see groups encouraging young women to learn a skilled trade and join a union.
My job is to work with unions to design and implement employee benefit programs that better represent all members, especially women in a heavily male-dominated industry. I have served unions for almost 28 years and know the power of effective benefit programs.
I know the labor market, and I am thrilled to meet members across the industry, to listen to their feedback and discuss plan design strategy to meet an evolving industry’s needs.
SVP, National Labor Practice Leader
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