March 2015

Ironworker Women: Helping Build Something Amazing

The national Women Building the Nation (WBN) conference grew out of the annual Women Building California conference sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California since 2002. In 2010, the conference attendance from outside California had grown so significantly that the North America’s Building Trades Unions (BCTD) agreed to co-sponsor the event. This year marks the fifth national conference co-sponsored by the BCTD.

In 2013, the Iron Workers Union was represented at the Women Building California & the Nation Conference (WBCN) by nearly 50 female members. Member attendees from across the Unites States and Canada came away from the event inspired to spread the word about the incredible amount of information and support they received at the conference. General President Walter Wise was so impressed by the amount of positive feedback that the conference had garnered that when he was approached by BCTD’s Committee for Women in the Trades Chair Patti Devlin with an invitation to speak at last year’s event, he accepted.

That event, held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on April 24-26, 2014, was so large it took two ballrooms at the Sacramento Convention Center to fit all the attendees. It broke the record for the largest event of its kind with 873 participants, including 126 Iron Worker members—26 of whom were recipients of an Ironworker’s IMPACT WBCN scholarship. The first year for the program, the WBCN scholarships were awarded to female members nominated for the honor based on their work ethic, activism and leadership qualities. 

Attendees heard from General President Wise along with Ken Rigmaiden, president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and Robbie Hunter, president of the California Building Trades Council during a “President’s Roundtable Discussion.” They also heard from tradeswomen from Canada, Australia, California and Missouri; California State Senator Holly Mitchell and Army Lt. Colonel Cherrie Davis, during the massive plenary sessions. Additionally, there were 41 workshops offered ranging from policy and politics to building union skills.

This year’s conference will be held at the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel in Los Angeles May 1-3, 2015. Renamed “Women Building the Nation” in honor of the immense attendance from outside the state of California last year, the event promises to be more exciting and productive than ever.

Building on their phenomenal turnout last year, Iron Worker attendees are hoping to see an even larger turnout for this year’s conference. Anna Martin, a Local 29 (Portland, Ore.) member said, “I would encourage any female ironworker to attend this conference. There’s an enormous sense of sisterhood and understanding at the event and it’s just an overall blast!” Anna was one of the Ironworker’s IMPACT scholarship recipients last year. The announcement came in late February that IMPACT will, once again, be sponsoring 26 female members to attend the WBN conference. Letters were sent out to IMPACT regional advisory board, district council and local union leadership encouraging participation at the event. In his letter General President Wise stated, “Seeing the dedication our sisters have to their union and their craft and the inclusive and supportive nature of the event have renewed my belief that every female member should be given the opportunity to attend the event at least once during their career.” 

Veteran attendee and Local 736 (Hamilton, Ontario) member Jamie McMillan said, “I encourage women to attend and share their own unique stories of battles and successes. The conference is jammed packed with information and inspiration to empower and encourage women to stand together in solidarity and be strong. The women range from apprentices to white hats. They are all proud union members with a strong sense of passion and pride in the work that they do.”

For more information on the event or the Ironworker’s IMPACT WBN conference scholarships, visit the Women Ironworkers section on the Iron Workers’ website.