Steel Edge Women Caucus at Virtual TWBN Conference

GP Stepano Addresses OPCMIA Delegation

The 10th annual International Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference (TWBN), sponsored by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and supported every year by the OPCMIA had to be held virtually this year on October 17th.

A highlight of the conference was the OPCMIA Steel Edge Women Caucus. It was opened by General President Daniel E. Stepano with a video address, which can be seen above.

“My priority as your General President is to remove any and all barriers that still stand in your way, whether it comes to success on the jobsite, advancement in your crafts and careers, or a seat at the table in OPCMIA leadership,” he said. “We need you in the room where it happens, because your experiences, your perspectives and your wisdom will lead us to better decisions and smarter strategies.”

Caucus participants heard from a number of OPCMIA women leaders, including Steel Edge Women Chair and Local 599 Business Agent/Recording Secretary Kilah Engelke, Kansas City Building Trades President Alise Martiney, Local 528 Business Agent Marilyn Kennedy and Plastering Instructor Rosie Bernard. They spoke about how they got to their positions and what their roles entail, while giving their best advice for their sisters looking to grow and advance through their careers in the OPCMIA.

Several apprentices offered their perspectives, as well. And participants discussed the state of work in the plaster and cement masonry crafts across North America, noting that while OPCMIA members are essential and have yet to experience a shortage of work due to COVID-19, the prospects of a typical seasonal slowdown and financing delays loom.

Other subjects covered by the Steel Edge Women included:

  • Maternity leave programs.
  • The OPCMIA’s newly published Maternity Guide.
  • The newly adopted NABTU program, Lean In, which seeks to strengthen the sisterhood bond and to specifically address retention of women in the trades.
  • The NABTU’s Tradeswomen Heroes Awards that highlight two journeywomen and two apprentice level tradeswomen every month from around North America — and one of the first four Tradeswomen Heroes recognized was none other than Kilah Engelke.

The caucus concluded with discussions about preparing for next year’s NABTU TWBN Conference that will take place in October 1-3, 2021 in New Orleans.

“Though we all would have preferred to be together, in person, we still had a great conversation that was positive, collaborative, and important,” Engelke said.