As part of national “Women in Construction Week,” women and men from local building trades unions gathered March 6 at Surly Brewing for the region’s second annual “Women Building Success” awards ceremony.
More than 40 nominations came in for “Apprentice of the Year” and “Journey Worker of the Year” and “Advocate of the Year.”
With Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” as a soundtrack, the program began with a slide-show featuring images from a photo contest organized last fall depicting women construction workers on the job or shots of their worksites.
The photo contest, the awards, the networking going on that evening before and after the program— all served to celebrate women in the construction trades and to build community.
“When you start in the trades, it can be hard,” said Jennifer Gaspersich, financial secretary for IBEW Local 292 and the emcee of the evening. “Don’t back-stab each other,” she told the audience, relating a conflict she faced early in her career with another woman on a jobsite. “We need to be successful,” Gaspersich said, “and that means building each other up.”
Gaspersich announced the evening’s award-winners:
- For “Apprentice of the Year,” Laura Tracy, IBEW Local 110, was the winner and an honorable mention award was presented to Stefany Slaney, Sprinkler Fitters Local 417.
- For “Journey Worker of the Year,” Katie LaPlant, Carpenters Local 322, was the winner while an honorable mention award went to Veing Paborriboon, Sheet Metal Workers Local 10.
- For “Advocate of the Year,” Tasha Lawrence, Plumbers Local 34, was the winner and an award for honorable mention was presented to Wendy Stuhr, Operating Engineers Local 49.
Some of the award-winners and other women trades workers told the Labor Review more about their work before entering the trades; Their backgrounds included working as an accountant, make-up artist, Home Depot worker, copy store manager, university administrator.
Why did they make the change to the building trades?
I’m doing something I love,” said Racheal Green, Carpenters Local 322. “I’m a homeowner now,” she added. “It helped me give my son a better life.”
“I’m moving around all day, problem solving,” said Laura Tracy, IBEW Local 110. “I would recommend getting into the trades… I love going to work.”
As the evening concluded, IBEW Local 292’s Jennifer Gaspersich provided a send-off: “We hope that you can go out tomorrow on the job and do anything!”
Speakers also put in a plug for the Trades Women Build Nations conference, which is coming to Minneapolis October 4-6, 2019. They also put out a call for volunteers for the conference.
For more information about the October conference, visit nabtu.org/wbn.