Illinois Laborers apprentice wins national tradeswoman award


First St. Louis area tradeswoman to receive the honor


TRADESWOMAN HERO: Emily Gilreath, (center) a third-year apprentice with Laborers Local 338, receives her Tradeswomen Hero Award. Standing with Gilreath is (from left) Greg Stimac, Local 338 business manager; Vicky Watts, apprenticeship coordinator at the Southwestern Illinois Laborers District Council; (Gilreath), Kyle Chappell, Local 338 secretary-treasurer; and B. Dean Webb, Gilreath’s uncle and president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor. – Laborers Local 338 photo

Wood River, IL – Emily Gilreath, a third-year apprentice with Laborers Local 338, has been honored as a Tradeswomen Hero in a new North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) awards program. She is the first tradeswoman from the St. Louis Metro area to receive an award.

For Gilreath, the union way of life has been instilled in her since the day she was born. She is a proud fourth generation Local 338 union member following in the footsteps of her paternal great grandfather, grandfather and father. Many other relatives are or have been members of the Boilermakers and Teamsters.

Gilreath said Vicky Watts, her apprenticeship coordinator at the Southwestern Illinois Laborers District Council, contacted her earlier this year for a biography so she could nominate her for the award.

“I forgot all about it, and then I got a phone call while I was working that I won an award,” Gilreath said. “I was totally surprised, and I am honored to have received the recognition.”

Watts said that when Gilreath applied for the apprenticeship, she wanted to become part the Brotherhood where “they all have each other’s backs” and to carry on the family tradition.

“Emily is a very strong and outgoing person, a good worker and a team player,” Watts said. “She is very involved in her Union, and she gives what she gets. When she is in class, she strives to be a leader and is always willing to learn more.”

Gilreath, 30, who has a 12-year-old son, said her Local 338 brothers and sisters and her family have been “super proud of her.”

Her uncle, B. Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, said that finding out that his niece won a national tradeswoman award was pretty cool.

“I remember when she first got on at the union hall,” said Webb, who is also secretary-treasurer at Machinists Lodge 660. “She called me, and she was so excited. I knew it was hard work because I was a laborer for a few weeks early on. But it has been good for her, and she’s fit right in. It’s been exciting to see.”

Gilreath, 30, learned the ins and outs of being a laborer by going on side jobs with her father Michael Gilreath when she was younger. She also absorbed some of her strength by watching her mother Phyllis Webb succeed in technology software sales, which is a male-dominated field.

“For women considering a career in the building trades, my advice is to reach for the stars – you can do whatever you put your mind to,” she said. “Take credit when credit is due and keep your head up.”

NABTU’s Tradeswomen Heroes Awards program began in October 2020 and recognizes four tradeswomen each month who lead by example and perform their duties at an outstanding level. The program honors two apprentices and two journey-level workers in the United States and Canada.

To learn more about program or to make a nomination, visit



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