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Ironing Out Sexual Harrassment

Ironworkers union leading the way in creating a more inclusive workplace

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by Guest Post on
Jan 15, 2019

ENR named Iron Workers (IW) general organizer for safety and diversity Vicki O'Leary a 2018 top 25 newsmaker. The honor is in recognition of her groundbreaking work through the organization's initiatives to level the playing field for ironworker women and her thought leadership in the building trades.

IW General President Eric Dean brought Vicki on board to spearhead diversity initiatives in 2016. "Vicki is passionate about changing the culture to ensure ironworker women are on an equal footing," says the IW General President Eric Dean. "She's a dynamic individual who gets things done."

Vicki took the lead in launching several groundbreaking IW initiatives to expand diversity. The IW and employer-ironworker partnership IMPACT launched a paid maternity leave program, the first of its kind in the building trades. But Vicki did not stop there. She worked with the leadership to rollout the "Be That One Guy" program to fight workplace harassment that threatens safety and productivity. "It is a safety issue" says Vicki. "Workplace harassment is a dangerous distraction and in our line of work, you can't afford to be distracted. When ironworkers are distracted from their work full of potential hazards, it could lead to accidents." 

The program enlists male workers to take a stand against bullying and harassment of any kind. "We want them to not be afraid to speak up and tell a bully to knock it off," says Vicki.

The program is multi-faceted. Town hall meetings will be held under the program to encourage an open forum for dialog and education. Vicki worked to include "bystander training" and intervention best practices and protocols in key IW safety training such as new officers, shop stewards and safety director training, which will be expanded to all local union managers this year. Vicki and the IW leadership believe such initiatives will not only make job sites safer but also improve retention of women.

Vicki is also the chairwoman of the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Tradeswomen's Committee. Through her leadership, NABTU's Women Building Nations conference has become the premier event in the industry for education and support for tradeswomen. She continues to extend Iron Workers innovation and thought leadership in safety and diversity to all building trades through her role in the NABTU committee.

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