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Sisters in Solidarity: Strength Through Activism

Sep 2, 2010

Report from 2010 IBEW International Women's Conference - Washington, D.C. - July 21-24, 2010

When presented with the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to represent the Local at the 2010 IBEW International Women's Conference I accepted with enthusiasm!  I considered this a wonderful opportunity to meet with other women in the Union and 'compare notes'.

IBEW International President Edwin Hill gave the keynote address and took questions from the floor.  I heard very inspiring talks given by a variety of 'Women in Power'; some were members of the IBEW and some were in the US government. Since mid-term elections are coming up in November there was a very political feel to the conference.

One of the most interesting sessions was called "Her Stories" (as opposed to 'His-stories') in which a number of women spoke about their experiences as women in the IBEW.  Of the more startling revelations was that pay inequity remains a problem.  A speaker discussed at length about the Lilly Ledbetter case and an Act of Congress recently passed called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  Lilly Ledbetter had been a production supervisor at Goodyear.  Prior to her retirement in 1998 she filed an equal pay lawsuit against Goodyear.  Long story short, she won.  But I found it surprising that there were still instances of unfair pay practices around.  Since day one of my employment with the Federal Government and membership in the Union I have always received the same pay as 'the boys'.  This was truly an eye-opening experience!

President Hill also chaired a session in which he premiered a video on the issue of declining membership.  The IBEW's membership peaked in 1972 as approximately 1 million members and current membership is around 725,000 members.  The video is a work in progress and once completed will be able to be viewed at the IBEW website

Of the 200 conference attendees between 25 and 30 were from Canada.  We met in the afternoon for more presentations plus round table discussions.

All in all, I had a wonderful time, made a few friends and had an interesting, educational and enlightening time.  My experience in Washington made me realize how lucky was not only to be a Federal government employee but a member of the IBEW as well. 

Michele Savoie