By SHERI GASSAWAY
Gina Walsh, deputy director of the International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators Union Labor Management and Cooperative Trust (LMCT), has been recognized with a Tradeswoman Hero award from the North America’s Building Trades Union (NABTU).
Walsh, a Heat & Frost Insulators Local 1 retiree who was the first woman to go through the St. Louis union’s apprenticeship program more than 30 years ago, was named the international’s deputy director in 2019. It’s the highest position ever held by a woman in the International Union.
“I was shocked to learn I had won the award,” Walsh said. “There are so many tradeswomen out there today doing amazing work. It’s time to let the younger women be recognized.”
Mark Selby, the international union’s vice president of Midwest States and a close personal friend of Walsh, was one of several colleagues to submit a letter nominating her for the award.
‘WISH WE HAD 50 GINA WALSHES’
“Gina became an Insulator Mechanic after serving her four-year apprenticeship,” Selby wrote. “Gina had the skills to work both commercial and industrial, which made her very easy to employ. I remember telling my colleagues that I wish we had 50 Gina Walshes when I was the business agent/business manager before going to the International. The contractors loved her!”
In addition to being the first woman to go through the Insulators Local 1 apprenticeship program and serving in the highest position ever held by a woman in the international union, Walsh was also the first female president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council.
‘CHAMPION FOR ALL WORKERS’
Well-known for her leadership in the St. Louis Labor community, Walsh, a former state senator, is also highly regarded in Missouri political circles as a “champion for all workers.” She served two terms in the Missouri Senate’s 13th District after serving four terms in Missouri House District 69, which included Bellefontaine Neighbors, Glasgow Village, Jennings, Moline Acres and Riverview.
“If it wasn’t for Gina’s efforts to defeat so-called ‘right-to-work’ in 2018, Missouri would be a ‘right-to-work’ state today,” Selby said. “Gina worked tirelessly on the floor and behind the scenes of the Missouri State Senate to defeat this union-busting legislation and also helped coordinate the local unions to get the message out and the people to vote against this law.”
INSPIRATION FOR WOMEN IN TRADES
Walsh has long served as an inspiration and mentor for women in the trades. In 2019, she received a Missouri Women in Trades Lifetime Achievement Award for being a pioneer in the St. Louis-area tradeswomen’s Labor Movement. And that is only one of many, many recognitions she has received for her leadership in the St. Louis area.
“I have a daughter who is a journeywoman insulator, and we attended the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in Minneapolis,” Selby said. “I was just amazed how all the insulator women looked to Gina for advice and leadership. When we left there, I told my daughter Gina was like ‘Mama Bear’ over all the insulator ladies.”
TRADESWOMEN HERO AWARDS PROGRAM
NABTU’s Tradeswomen Heroes Awards program 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.
Walsh is one of four St. Louis-area tradeswomen to receive the award since the program began in October. Laborers Local 397 apprentice Ginger Ross, Laborers Local 338 apprentice Emily Gilreath and Iron Workers Local 392 journeywoman Mishelle Wallace – all from the Metro East – also won awards.
To learn more about the program or to make a nomination, visit nabtu.org/twbn.