The Florida Building and Construction Trades Council elected its first woman president – and she is an IBEW journeyman wireman.

Theresa L. King, recording secretary for Tampa, Fla., Local 915, was elected last September, making her the first woman president of not only the Florida Building and Construction Trades, but the first in the southeast. In her new role, King will promote the building trades throughout Florida and lobby at the capital in Tallahassee.

“I’m going to bring a fresh new perspective, but I also hope that my role can be an inspiration to women working in the trades,” King told Fight for Florida, a coalition of organizations including labor groups. “Many women struggle to know if they can make a difference in their jobs and in their communities and I hope I can show them that they can.”

The Florida Building and Construction Trades elected their first woman president, Tampa, Fla., Local 915 member Theresa King, pictured here, middle, with International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore J. Chilia, right, and Fifth District Vice President Joseph S. Davis.

King credits her husband, also an IBEW member, for encouraging her to get into the field in 2000.

“I was thinking about my career, and also about the future and my retirement, and he suggested the trades,” King said. “He had seen other women go through the apprenticeship and knew I was good with tools and thought I’d do well. He was right.”

Sister King jumped into everything the union had to offer, from canvassing with her local COPE to serving as a steward and as Local 915’s press secretary.  

“I wanted to be an intricate part of the success of the IBEW,” she said.

Her enthusiasm and talent was noticed by others.

“I’m a very hard worker and always willing to do what is asked of me, so when they’d ask me to go to Tallahassee to lobby, I always said yes. Then, when there was a vacancy for president, they asked me to run,” King said.

“She deserves it. She’s worked hard,” said Local 915 Business Manager Randall K. King, who is Theresa King’s husband.

King says that to recruit more women into the trades, a broader discussion about apprenticeships and careers is necessary.

“We need to go into the high schools. We need to let them know that with a union job in a trade, women get the same wages and retirement benefits as the men,” King said. “We’re still dealing with societal gender roles. Boys get toy trucks and girls get dolls. We need to break that chain. Women shouldn’t think that they can’t do something because it’s not the norm.”

King also noted the importance of mentorship and people assisting each other.

“As a journeyman, if you see someone struggling, mentor them. Share your skills and teach them about the union. It’s essential for the growth of the movement.”

In addition to her husband, King says she had mentors along the way whom she credits with helping her get into leadership.

“A couple of local leaders really took me under their wing and helped me to grow in the trades. Working hard and having those influential people in my life helped me get elected as recording secretary of my local,” King said. 

Passionate about the trades, King is eager to promote her brothers and sisters.

“The technical education you get as a union apprentice is second to none,” she said. “And you’re building a pension. You will always have good, safe working conditions. And you can take pride in your work. We’re moving away from craftsmanship to production. The union supports craftsmanship.”

King says she laid down her tools on a Thursday and was in Tallahassee the following Monday, eager to dive in. The legislative agenda has included a bill to restrict ordinances that promote local hiring, which was killed in committee. She also wants to ensure that funds for apprenticeships go to established programs like those in the building trades.

“We’re building relationships wherever we can,” King said. 

And due to redistricting, every state senator is up for re-election this cycle.

“We have a lot of opportunities to make an impact,” she said.

King will also sit on the Florida AFL-CIO COPE, where she will be involved in political endorsements.

“No one gets a free pass,” she said. “We’re going to do what’s best for the building trades and hold people accountable.”

King’s says her four-year term as president has started well. In some ways, it’s an extension of what she has always done, something that served her well as an apprentice too.

“I always did what was asked of me and it’s nice to know that those in positions of power noticed and asked me to run,” she said. “I will always work hard and to the best of my ability. And I’m going to do all I can to grow the Florida building trades.”