We only met her a handful of times, but she was the champion we had been seeking for years. We extend our deepest condolences to Jin Sook’s family and friends.
In 1995, a group of tradeswomen from around the world met at the UN’s World Conference on Women in Beijing. An Electrician who was at that meeting, Vivian Price, later traveled to Asia to meet women working in the construction trades and she made a film, Transnational Tradeswomen,* about the women she interviewed. From those two events came the dream of an international network of women working in the construction trades. Twenty years later, the First Building Bridges Delegation of women from the US toured India meeting women construction workers and their union representatives and advocates. It was a life changing experience for all of us, but a dozen rank-and-file working tradeswomen (and one researcher) traveling across the world does not make an international network. We knew that we needed an institutional home and that it needed to be a labor home. We found that home when we met Jin Sook Lee, the Global Campaign Director of the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), a global union federation of construction workers with a strong commitment to organizing women. In 2018, Jin Sook and Rita Schiavi, President of BWI’s International Women’s Committee, traveled to Women Build Nations in Seattle to meet us. That week, we began planning for an international conference, the one that would have been held this month in Madrid except for the pandemic.
Last year, the Second Tradeswomen Building Bridges Delegation spent nearly two weeks in Kerala, India with the Archana Women’s Centre and members and leaders of BWI in India. The success of the Second Delegation was due to Jin Sook’s hard work and the commitment she shared with us to build a truly Global Network of women working in the construction trades.
The international conference will happen — when it is safe– and we will create the Global Network. Jin Sook will not be with us but it will be in her honor. To our sister, Jin Sook Lee, we say ¡presente!
*Follow us here and on Facebook for more on Transnational Tradeswomen. We are hoping to have a watch party and panel discussion with some of Tradeswomen Building Bridges founders and some of the tradeswomen who were in Beijing in 1995.