The ninth international Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference, the largest gathering of its kind in the world, wrapped up on Sunday at the Minneapolis Hilton.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hathaway. MN State Building and Construction Trades Council

More than 2,800 tradeswomen representing 48 states and ten Canadian 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 the fifteen international building trades unions.

“Welcome to the Bold North!” Jessica Looman, Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Director, officially kicked off the conference early Saturday morning.  “The Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council represents 70,000 union construction professionals,” said Looman. “We are proud that Minnesota has one of the strongest economies in the nation, the best wage theft law in the country, strong prevailing wage laws, and incredible apprenticeship programs that continue to increase the diversity and inclusion of our unions. Now, we can also say that we have hosted the largest group of union tradeswomen in the world.”

Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council Director Jenny Winkelaar surprised the crowd with a video from U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg, whose remarks roused the standing-room-only crowd when she told them, “Women who build are here to stay.” “Empowered women, empower women,” said Winkelaar of Justice Ginsberg’s remarks. 

“This conference grows exponentially every year, and the impact is phenomenal,” said North American Building Trades Union (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey. “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.”

The three-day conference started on Friday morning with a day of service coordinated by Minnesota’s tradeswomen group, Women Building Success.  Over 200 volunteers worked at Ascension Place, performing building maintenance and at Second Harvest Heartland, packing over 11,000 pounds of food for local food shelves. 

On Saturday afternoon, thousands of conference participants took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis for a parade and rally to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the building trades. 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hathaway. MN State Building and Construction Trades Council

A drumline, union banners, cheering, and chants showed pride and solidarity by the union tradeswomen and their allies. 

The conference concluded on Sunday with a Tools of the Trade event and a workplace safety for women in construction forum.  “We were so glad that we could host this conference in Minneapolis,” said Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council Business Manager Dan McConnell, “Tradeswomen make our unions, our industry and our communities stronger.” 

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