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Women in the union – taking action, not the notes

April 27, 2023 | News Articles
Image: Four women sit before microphones on a stage with a large screen behind them

Most workplaces and safety equipment have been designed for men.

A panel of women at the 2023 USW National Policy Conference shared how they have been taking action on women’s health and safety, bringing to life a resolution from the last policy conference, what has become the Raising the Bar campaign.  

Donna Wingrove, Local 8782 in District 6, works in a steel mill where less than 6% of the workforce are women.

Armed with the campaign action guide, speaking notes and a checklist, Wingrove organized a meeting to talk about the issues women face at work – dealing with cancer, domestic violence and harassment and safety equipment that doesn’t fit.

Lena Green, USW Local 5220 at Alta Steel in District 3, was contacted by the local vice-president about the campaign. Only the week before, she had suffered burns when a piece of slag flew down her shirt and got caught in her sports bra, which melted into her chest.

Along with the VP, she went to the employer to get flame-resistant (FR) bras for all the women at the plant and had to fight to get the employer to agree that each woman could order their own to fit.

For Caroline Lemay, Local 9700 in District 5, the solution can sometimes be simple. She brought safety gloves to the employer health and safety representative, showing him that the women had to cut the ends off the fingertips. He was flabbergasted. The next week, the women got gloves in the right sizes.

Later on in conference proceedings, the USW National Women’s Committee convened a panel called “Women of Steel – We’re not here to take notes,” reflecting the fact that still too often, men make the decisions and women take notes.

Sharing their own experiences of challenges, the women called on men to be good allies. To listen. To hear and believe women and be better advocates for equality and fairness.

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