MINNEAPOLIS — North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) has successfully concluded its ninth international Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference, the largest gathering of its kind in the world. More than 2,800 tradeswomen representing 48 states and 10 provinces gathered in Minnesota to share experiences and best practices with fellow tradeswomen to learn about new programs and opportunities in the industry and to engage with top leaders from government, industry, and 15 of the largest international building trades unions.

 The three-day conference featured a day of service with Haven House Ascension Place and Second Harvest Heartland, formal plenary sessions, and more than 25 workshops on a range of topics addressing unique and critical issues of tradeswomen.

“This conference grows exponentially every year, and the impact is phenomenal,” said Sean McGarvey, president, NABTU. “NABTU is committed to empowering current and future tradeswomen as we increase opportunities for and retention rates of women in fulfilling union trade careers. Every day, we recruit more women into great union construction apprenticeships and careers, and these trailblazing tradeswomen are moving up in the top ranks of leadership. This conference is a celebration of these trailblazers and a testament to the growth of tradeswomen among our ranks.”  

Jessica Looman, executive director, Minnesota Building Trades Council, and Jenny Winkelaar, director, Minneapolis Building Trades Council, kicked off the first plenary with inspiring stories about their career paths, the growth of Minnesota women in the trades, and the progress of their Women Building Success program. Winkelaar surprised the crowd with a video of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, whose speech roused the standing-room-only crowd when she told them, “Women who build are here to stay.”

The plenaries included additional insightful, and inspiring speeches by McGarvey; Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurse, AFL-CIO; Joseph Sellers, SMART union International; Stephanie Whalen, president, Union Labor Life Insurance; Vicki O’Leary, chairwoman, NABTU Tradeswomen Committee; Erica Stewart, international officer, Boilermakers Union; and Laura Ceja, UA Union International Recruitment Officer.

On Saturday afternoon, participants took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis for a parade and rally. The conference concluded on Sunday with a keynote speech by Mark McManus, international president, UA Union, and a panel on pathways to apprenticeship led by Arlene Dunn, director, Canada’s Building Trades Unions. For more information, www.nabtu.org.