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The OPCMIA’s proud Steel-Edge Women played an active, important role in the just-concluded ninth international Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference in Minneapolis. More than 2,800 tradeswomen — including the largest OPCMIA delegation ever — gathered to share experiences and best practices with their sisters, to learn about new programs and opportunities in the industry, and to engage with top leaders from government, industry and 15 international building trades unions.
The OPCMIA had several spotlight roles, including a video address from General President Dan Stepano and a presentation by the Steel Edge Women about what our newly formed committee means to organized labor and to our trades. Notably, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler gave a shout-out to the Steel Edge Women. And an OPCMIA Apprentice announced the locations of the next three Tradeswomen Build Nations Conferences at the close of the proceedings.
Recounting her experience at the Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference, Steel Edge Women Chair Kilah Engelke, Business Agent of Local 599, said, “I was moved to tears several times by the energy in the room, by the friendships and support that grow because this enormous group is there in Solidarity and all on the same page. Being there to witness some of my newest little sisters in the trades meet their sisters from around the country and to literally see the passion for these new relationships in their eyes that come from the love they have for their trade and the appreciation they have for the experience they’ve been given is incredibly moving. I’m so excited for next year’s Conference in Washington, D.C.”
The OPCMIA Labor Caucus at the Conference was attended by 27 — the most ever. “Having [Local 518 President] Alise Martiny there to share her story and some of the other women who have grown into some pretty important roles gives the young women hope and something to look up to,” Engelke said. “It gives us all a chance to feel connected, solid, and strong together. The Labor Caucus is always followed up by the Banner Parade, and there aren’t many words that can do justice to what that feels like to be marching as all the trades together through the streets, all filled with pride, ‘loud and proud’ and happy to be showing who we are, together.”
In addition, the conference was filled with educational opportunities for participants on a wide variety of subjects, such as running for union office, issues face by women in the trades, the opioid crisis, engaging millennials, addressing sexual harassment, organizing and much more.
“This was a chance to grow and learn and figure out how to navigate your career and inspire you to take on leadership roles and encourage you to take an active role in your Union,” Engelke said.
“The OPCMIA is deeply committed to empowering our Steel Edge Women, and to increasing the presence of women within our membership and our leadership,” said General President Stepano. “I am deeply proud of our strong participation in the Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference and of all the ways in which our Steel Edge Women make our union stronger, better and more effective.”