“Often as a woman you’ll be on a job site and feel alone. It is so amazing to walk into this conference and know you are really not alone, that all these women here today are in the trades and shared your experiences,” said Carol Toliver of Tradeswomen, Inc., addressing the audience at the seventh annual California Women Building California Conference in Oakland, May 17-18. “It is also about union strengthening and making sure we are the best union members we can be. We have a lot to contribute, and it is only through unity and community we can remain strong,” she continued.
Recruitment, retention, and leadership development were primary focuses of the conference. There were also workshops aimed at improving the quality of life in the trades. They addressed everything from snappy comebacks to buying a home in today’s market, from becoming a contractor to understanding pensions, from reading a blueprint to talking to a lawyer. The conference attendants heard from state legislators including Assemblymember Fiona Ma, Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero and Senator Ellen Corbett, as well as Hancock.
The importance of participating in electoral politics was another focus of the conference, with the state budget and presidential election looming overhead. State Building Council President Bob Balgenorth emphasized the need to elect a president who would “heal the wounds that George Bush did to all the working people.” Referring to McCain as John McSame, Balgenorth warned that if elected, McCain will continue the attack on working people, and we will continue to have “a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and to hell with everyone else.” The only way to make sure that doesn’t happen is for union people to precinct walk and phone bank. That message was echoed by California Senator Ellen Corbett, who warned the audience that if the governor’s budget is passed, with its 10 percent cut in services and reduction in education spending, the results will be devastating to working people. It is up to the people in the audience to make their voices heard, she said. Otherwise there are plenty of legislators who will take the easy way out and listen to the people writing them large checks.Organized Labor talked with several people at the conference about what it is like to be a woman in the building trades and how the attitudes towards women have changed