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IBEW Women’s Conference Showcases
Strong Union Spirit

September 8, 2006

The IBEW Women’s Conference held Friday morning, September 8, showcased a great spirit of solidarity and strong union sisterhood.  More than 200 delegates and guests attended.

IBEW Human Services Department Director Carolyn Williams opened the conference with a welcome to the delegates and introduced a video presentation, “We stand on the Shoulders of Giants.” The video featured portraits of historical and contemporary women who have advanced the struggle for justice.

Williams invited 14 women who serve as IBEW International Representatives, as well as Executive Assistant to the International President Liz Shuler, to the stage for special recognition. Royetta Sanford, former Human Services Department director, attended the conference and was recognized as “one of the giants.”

Both International President Edwin D. Hill and International Secretary Jon F. Walters addressed the conference. Also extending greetings were: Fourth District International Vice President Paul J. Witte, International Executive Council Chairman Robert W. Pierson and Third District IEC Council member and host Local 38 Business Manager Sam Chilia.

In his address to the delegates, President Hill recognized the contributions of strong women union members and emphasized support for the issues important to them, including organizing, leadership within their local unions and political action.

“Stand tall, stand together with courage and commitment to move forward,” President Hill said. “Together we can create a new future by standing shoulder to shoulder to face the challenges ahead and build a stronger union.”

Secretary-Treasurer Walters then addressed the conference.   “Women can achieve great goals in the IBEW,” Walters said. “Women have a place everywhere in the IBEW. I believe there’s power to spare in this room. We need you to move this union forward. We need you to help us expand our ranks.”

Shuler noted that President Hill has appointed “more women and minorities for staff positions than any other International President.”  She then opened the conference floor to delegates for a question-and-answer session with President Hill.

Topics discussed in the Q & A session including mentoring for women at the local level; organizing; combating outsourcing; and conducting outreach to the community, the schools and within members’ own families to encourage more women to enter the trades.

“The IBEW is going to grow,” President Hill concluded, “and we need you to put on the straps and help us get done what needs to be done.”

Guest speaker Elise Bryant, National Labor College faculty member, spoke on the Women’s Conference theme of “Footprints of Our Past – Guiding Us Into the Future.”  Delegates were invited to stand and call the name of a woman who served as a personal inspiration and role model. In both song and a call-and-response session, Bryant paid tribute to “all the sisters who broke into the trade and blazed a path.”

IBEW Education Director Jan Schwingshakl made an instructive presentation on “Effective Feedback” in situations requiring conflict resolution.

IBEW International Representative Sherilyn Wright, assigned to the Political/Legislative Affairs Department, spoke about the critical importance of 2006 mid-term elections and introduced the next guest speaker.

Pulitzer Prize winner Connie Schultz, author and columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer – and wife of Ohio Senate candidate Sherrod Brown – addressed delegates on the topic, “Women: The Key to the 2006 elections.”

Schultz praised what activist women and organized labor have accomplished. “It is so important this year that women step up for the 2006 elections,” Schultz said, adding that she has seen “more women organizing in Ohio this year than ever before – forming groups all over the state.”

 “Women have stood up and stepped up,” Shultz said. “Sherrod Brown is fighting for labor.”

Wright told the delegates, “It’s going to take all of us to do it. Get active and let’s make this change happen.”

The final speaker was IBEW International Representative Carmella Cruse of the Membership Development Department.

Cruse made a dynamic presentation on “Organizing to Win.”  She spoke of recent success in the IBEW’s ongoing organizing campaign in Florida. “Sisters are leading the way,” Cruse said. “It’s going to take every last one of us to stand up together, shoulder to shoulder,” in the fight to organize.

“Sisters are doing it for ourselves and for others who are struggling for good union jobs,” Cruse said.

In closing remarks, Williams told the delegates, “We all walk in the shoes of those who went before and we are laying the footprints for those who will follow.”

Women’s Conference delegates continued a lively exchange of ideas at a post-conference luncheon.

Womens' Conference Photo Gallery




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