This year, the State Building Trades Council has approved a resolution intended to aid in the recruitment and retention of women in the trades. Our Local Ironworkers 377 in the same spirit sent a representative to a statewide 2nd Annual Working Women's Conference in Anaheim sponsored by the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The conference was dedicated to the encouragement of women in unions and the theme of this meeting was "Working Women's Leadership Development: Laying the Foundation for a Statewide Network."
In order to create an environment in which all members feel that they have the means and opportunity to participate in our union and strengthen our trade, an informal committee has met to form an ironworker women's mentorship: members Alys Kirsch, Jeanne Park, and Peggy Phelps with the resources of Apprenticeship coordinator Harold Evans and participation of Tradeswomen Inc. representative Amy Reynolds.
What we hope to achieve is to gather together women of experience within our union to advise those who are newer to the trade. We would hope to open up discussion of relevant situations and options for understanding and resolving events and issues that concern us all as members of the ironworkers union and, in particular, as working women.
The subjects which we would like to bring to attention include:
1. Family and child care issues
2. Education of the membership regarding what is and is not to be expected of or appropriate in their actions to other members in relation to gender.
3. Allaying the fears of significant others and spouses for our welfare within a primarily male environment.
Eventually we hope to assist in the creation of a steward training or foreman training workshop. We also plan in participating in the working rights education of the apprenticeship, and the recruitment of women interested in working in the building trades. Possibly this may include outreach to younger women and girls demonstrating that our trade is a viable option for their future. Overall we must persist in strengthening the cooperation between members in all workplace situations.
Our ultimate goal is to create a working environment where the issues are skills and work, and gender is not a priority.
A general meeting is planned within a few months. If you would like to participate in that, would like to be a member of the steering committee, or want more information, please contact Harold Evans at (408) 988-5511. We will try to find a time that is convenient so please state your preference. The meetings will alternate between the San Francisco hall and a San Jose location. Please pass on this information to any other women working within our local, as well as permit hands and boomers.
For incidents of gender discrimination or sexual harassment--tell your co-worker directly that the action is inappropriate. Inform your steward and/or foreman of the situation. Call your business agent. Keep a log of the events. The creation of a hostile work environment is not to be tolerated.
Advice & Counseling pertaining to discrimination or harassment can be obtained in English and Spanish from the Equal Rights Advocates toll free line: 1-800-839-4372 www.equalrights.org
General work safety issues can be researched through "Worksafe: A Coalition for Safety & Health" www.worksafe.org
Information about child care can be obtained from: AFSCME's Women's Rights Department, 1625 L. St., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036-5687; (202) 429-5090; or on the web at www.afscme.org. They are also working on organizing child care workers.
The Work & Family Project Information Line provides information about family and medical leave rights, including pregnancy. (800) 880-8047 (toll-free in California) or 415-593-0033
Tradeswomen Inc. is a bay area collective of women from various building trades creating a network of support, information and action for union women. (Tradeswomen Magazine is not currently in circulation at this time.) 415-487-6419
Laney College in Oakland offers courses in trades mentoring and labor history. 510-986-6946
The U.S. Department of Labor--Women's Bureau, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 927, San Francisco, CA 94105, phone number: (415)-744-6679 maintains publications on workforce gender equity.
Harold Evans has copies of a pamphlet Organize: A Working Women's Handbook by Union Women's Alliance to Gain Equality (W.A.G.E.) which includes information in becoming more involved in your union and provides helpful information including Robert's Rules.