Members of San Jose, Calif., Local 332 have been slipping into high-heeled shoes for years to support their local YWCA and this year was no different.
"It's one of my favorite and long-standing events that Local 332 supports," said Lilliana Martinez, a fourth-year apprentice and co-captain of the event. "I look forward to it every year."
More than 150 members and their families participated in the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley "Walk a Mile in Their Shoes" fundraiser, held on June 23 at the Santana Row shopping area. Billed as a light-hearted annual event to raise awareness about the serious issue of sexual assault and domestic violence, it raises much-needed funds to support critical and life-saving services for survivors. These services include shelter, therapy, legal support, childcare, employment assistance and outreach.
"It was a warm, beautiful day and the building trades really showed up," said Local 332 President Javier Casillas, who also co-captained the event. "Local 332 and UA Local 393 had the largest presence."
In addition to members walking, Local 332 also sponsored the event, raising more than $10,000. The event itself raised over $100,000 in total and was the first in-person walk since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We support Walk a Mile because now more than ever we need to support all women from domestic violence and sex trafficking," Casillas said. "We must do all that we can to support the safety of women."
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, roughly one in four women will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. On a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. And evidence shows that domestic violence rates went up during the pandemic, particularly during the early days of the lockdown.
Local 332, which has about 3,700 members across a variety of classifications, has been participating in the event since 2008, thanks to a now-retired member, Sal Ventura. In 2007, Ventura was invited to participate and gathered his own team to do so. The following year, Local 332 got involved and that encouraged more members to participate.
"The cause behind the Walk a Mile event seems to resonate with our members on a personal and community level," Martinez said. "They are more than willing to continually support the services that YWCA provides for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. And through this connection to the YWCA, our local has increased sponsorship amounts, donations and member participation over the years."
Martinez also noted the similarity between the missions of the YWCA and that of the IBEW.
"The YWCA's mission statement aligns with the opening statement of our Declaration of the IBEW, 'Our cause is the cause of human justice, human rights, human security.' The YWCA is on a 'mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.' These are the missions our members value within our trade and personally."
Local 332 also supports other community events, including a turkey trot, a charity drive for their local Sacred Heart, Operation Freedom Paws which works with veterans and service dogs, and Christmas in the Park.