ENR honors Iron Workers for groundbreaking maternity leave program

Iron Workers General President Eric Dean named Engineering News-Record Top 25 Newsmaker for pioneering paid maternity leave program in the building trades

Washington – Iron Workers (IW) General President Eric Dean was named one of 2017 ENR Top 25 Newsmakers for his role in establishing a groundbreaking paid maternity leave program. The IW employer-ironworker partnership IMPACT announced the groundbreaking move at its annual conference last year.

The program is the first of its kind in the building trades and provides qualified pregnant ironworkers up to six months of paid leave and up to six weeks postpartum.

The impetus came after Dean attended a “Women Build Nations” conference, where an ironworker related how she had miscarried due to continuing to work on the job in order to comply with the work quota.

That inspired Dean and Bill Brown, CEO of Ben Hur Construction Co. and co-chair of IMPACT, to confer with female colleagues and draw up a plan modeled after IMPACT’s Off-the-Job Accident program, which provides financial support for ironworkers while recovering from an injury that occurred off the job site.

“We are very proud to be an agent of change in the industry,” said Dean. “It’s about time we make diversity and inclusion a priority.”


Brown presented the plan to the board as a good business case, noting that losing a female ironworker means losing at least $32,000 spent on her four-year apprenticeship.

“It’s an investment because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work after pregnancy,” says Brown.


“General President Dean listened and immediately acted to do the right thing to keep members safe during pregnancy,” says Vicki O’Leary, whom Dean hired to serve as diversity chair for IW. “Now, no female ironworker will ever have to choose between work and having a family.”

“The maternity leave program was a big step for ironworker women,” Dean said, noting the union is now exploring other initiatives to improve diversity and retention.

2017 ENR Top 25 Newsmakers will be honored at a New York City gala in April.

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

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