World’s Biggest Tradeswomen Conference Breaks Attendance Record

Over 2800 tradeswomen and construction industry leaders convened this weekend to advance career paths and strengthen union tradeswomen’s future


MINNEAPOLIS, MN  – Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 – North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) has successfully concluded its ninth international Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference, the largest gathering of its kind in the world. More than 2800 tradeswomen representing 48 states and ten 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 biggest fifteen international building trades unions.

The three-day conference, held over the weekend, featured a day of service with Haven House Ascension Place and Second Harvest Heartland, formal plenary sessions and over 25 workshops on a range of topics addressing unique and critical issues of tradeswomen.

“This conference grows exponentially every year, and the impact is phenomenal,” said 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.”

Minnesota Building Trades Council Executive Director Jessica Looman and Minneapolis Building Trades Council Director Jenny Winkelaar kicked off the first plenary, held on Saturday, with inspiring stories about their career paths, the growth of Minnesota women in the trades, and the progress of their Women Building Success program. Winkelaar surprised the crowd with a video of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, whose speech roused the standing-room-only crowd when she told them, “Women who build are here to stay.”

The plenaries included additional insightful and inspiring speeches by NABTU President Sean McGarvey, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, SMART union General President Joseph Sellers, Union Labor Life Insurance President Stephanie Whalen, NABTU Tradeswomen Committee Chairwoman Vicki O’Leary, Boilermakers Union International Officer Erica Stewart, and UA Union National Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Laura Ceja.

On Saturday afternoon, participants took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis for a parade and rally. The conference concluded on Sunday with a keynote speech by UA Union General President Mark McManus and an apprenticeship pathways panel led by Arlene Dunn, Canada’s Building Trades Unions’ Director.

Click here to review pictures of the event.


About NABTU: North America’s Building Trades Unions is an alliance of 15 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that collectively represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada. Each year, our unions and our signatory contractor partners invest over $1 billion in private-sector money to fund and operate over 1,900 apprenticeship training and education facilities across North America that produce the safest, most highly trained, and productive skilled craft workers found anywhere in the world. NABTU is dedicated to creating economic security and employment opportunities for its construction workers by safeguarding wage and benefits standards, promoting responsible private capital investments, investing in renown apprenticeship and training, and creating pathways to the middle class for women, communities of color and military veterans in the construction industry.