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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 http://www.ibew.org.

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

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