Iron Workers 396 apprentice calls new paid maternity leave benefit ‘life-changing’

AURORA BIHLER climbing a column at school.

Iron Workers International Union first in building trades to introduce generous policy


Aurora Bihler, an enthusiastic fourth-year apprentice with Iron Workers Local 396, has been hoping to start a family in the next five years.

However, she’s been stuck between a rock and a hard place. She absolutely loves her job and has finally found a career that she can build upon, but her contract – like many others in the building trades – didn’t offer maternity benefits dealing with the challenges of the physical work associated with the trade that could jeopardize a pregnancy.

Fortunately, the dilemma is no longer an issue for Bihler and other female iron workers. Last month, the Iron Workers International Union and the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) announced a new paid maternity leave benefit at the 2017 Iron Workers/IMPACT Conference in San Diego.

“For me, this is life-changing,” Bihler said. “I thought I would have to quit my job to be able to have a family. With this new policy, I can take leave, have a safe pregnancy and go back to work.”


Specifically, the new paid maternity leave includes six months of pre-delivery maximum benefit and six to eight weeks of post-delivery benefit. Regardless of what was covered pre-delivery, the ironworker member will be eligible for up to six weeks of paid leave after the birth of the child and two additional weeks for Cesarean deliveries.



The Iron Workers International Union is the first to introduce such a beneficial paid maternity leave benefit in the building trades. The United States lags behind its European counterparts when it comes to paid maternity leave and most industries in the country do not offer adequate paid leave. It’s virtually unheard of in the building trades.

“I am so proud of the Iron Workers for making this progressive move,” Bihler said. “They are paving the way to create more diversity in the industry and I hope other building trade unions will follow suit.”

Iron Workers Local 396 Business Manager Tom McNeil was at the conference when the announcement was made. He said he wasn’t surprised to see the union take the lead on the situation.


McNeil said Local 396 has approximately 1,250 active members and about 30 are women. He added that the number of women joining the union has been steadily increasing in the last five years.

“I think it’s a great benefit to be able to offer to our female iron workers,” McNeil said. “We have a really strong group of women in our local that are very active in the union, and this will definitely help us with retaining members.”


The Iron Workers International Union represents 130,000 ironworkers in North America who work in construction on bridges, structural steel, ornamental, architectural, and miscellaneous metals, rebar and in shops.

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