It has been a long time between posts. Over the past year, I have been more focused on the work in the US of “crushing the barriers of women’s access to good jobs in the union construction trades.” We have more then tripled the number of women in union construction in Massachusetts and we are working with sisters across the country and Canada on our goal of 20% tradeswomen by 2020. Here’s a picture of our progress in Massachusetts. You can learn more about this at PGTI: The Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues and Build A Life that Works.
But the international connections continue to be built.
Through social media, Melena Harris of Sisters in the Building Trades made contact with tradeswomen who were organizing in the Philippines. Women welders led the way for tradeswomen to organize themselves into the Pinay Tradeswomen. (See more on this story on page 10 of the Pride and a Paycheck Magazine from 2016.) Melena then connected the women in the Philippines with the Builders and Woodworkers International (BWI) and their Philipines affiliate, the National Union of Building and Construction Workers. BWI is a “Global Union Federation grouping free and democratic unions with members in the Building, Building Materials, Wood, Forestry and Allied sectors.” In other words, an international union for construction workers. BWI has a large presence in India. Representatives supported the Building Bridges Delegation to India in 2017 and attended the Building Bridges 2017: The International Tradeswomen’s Conference in India.
A circle was closed when BWI helped to pull together the Manila Tradeswomen Gathering in Quezon City this past March 4. A delegation of US tradeswomen also attended the Gathering after first going to Australia for a conference with tradeswomen there.
Next steps to building an international network of women working in the construction trades:
- In BWI, we now have an international construction-based organization that will take leadership and devote resources to building the global network that many of us have worked on– with slim support– for many years. BWI is pro-union and pro-women with an active program to grow women’s leadership.
- A meeting will be convened at Women Build Nations by BWI and Jin Sook Lee, BWI’s Global Campaign Director, in October in Seattle.
- The Building Bridges Delegation is planning a Training Exchange with the Archana Women’s Centre in Kerala, India for the fall of 2019. This will be an opportunity for 8-10 US tradeswomen to spend a week at Archana learning about South Indian techniques in masonry and carpentry and providing the tradeswomen of Archana with introductory workshops on electricity and plumbing. We hope to also connect with BWI affiliates in Kerala to learn more about women working in construction in the region. More information will available soon.
Meanwhile the women construction workers of India continue to work under horrendously unsafe conditions. Last week, a building under construction in Ghaziabad collapsed killing one worker. Two women construction workers and their children were among the nine injured. A week earlier, nine were killed including a women and two children, when a building under construction in Noida collapsed.
Yesterday, Monday, July 30, women construction workers staged demonstrations in Tamil Nadu. Members of Tamil Nadu All India Trade Union Congress Construction Workers’ Association have organized and protested for decades to protect the rights of women construction workers to their legally mandated benefits. All across India, only a fraction of the funds collected for the Construction Workers Welfare Boards is being distributed to the workers. These and other injustices are faced by women construction workers across the world. We will all be stronger when the international organization of tradeswomen is stronger.