Plumbers & Pipefitters 562 CHAMPION program, union painting contractor also recognized
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Three local tradeswomen, the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 CHAMPION program and a union painting contractor were honored during the 2nd Annual Missouri Women in Trades (MOWIT) Tradeswomen Awards Gala on Oct. 30.
Last year’s inaugural gala, held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Union Hall, was sold out with over 400 guests and raised more than $20,000. Like many other non-profit organizations that hold annual fundraisers, MOWIT was faced with a lengthy list of restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the group decided the show must go on and held the gala virtually via Zoom and Facebook Live. The event recognized the hard work and achievements of area tradeswomen and honored unions, contractors and industry members who have gone the extra mile.
“There are so many people doing wonderful things out there despite the pandemic, and we felt it was important to take time to focus on it and let them shine and lift us up,” said Beth Barton, MOWIT president.
This year’s winners are:
TRADESWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Lynette Bryant, a 22-year member of Carpenters Local 97, won the Tradeswoman of the Year Award. She works for Walsh Construction and is currently a shop steward on the Merchants Bridge replacement project in St. Louis.
While in the trades, Bryant received a bachelor’s degree in Project Management & Administration. She has worked as a project manager on a BJC project and has worked on many high profile projects in St. Louis including the first Page Avenue Extension, Metrolink, the Boone Bridge and many others.
Bryant also volunteers as a mentor in the Build Union Diversity (BUD) program, is an advocate for women in the carpenters’ union, has pushed for women to hold office in the local and has a vision to increase the number of women instructors at the carpenters’ school and training center.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT/LEGACY AWARD
Candice Rejmenczak, president of Painters Local 471 and a delegate on the Painters District Council 58 Executive Board, received the Lifetime Achievement/Legacy Award. Rejmenczak, who serves as an executive board member on the Madison County Federation of Labor, is safety director at The PaintSmiths of St. Louis.
Rejmenczak began her painting career in a non-union shop 20 years ago and joined her union in 2009. In 2016, she became a pre-apprenticeship instructor for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Job Corps Program in St. Louis and just three years later, she became the first woman to win the IUPAT Job Corps Instructor of the Year award.
Throughout her career, Rejmenczak has served as a mentor to women and minorities in the trades and those interested in joining. She volunteers for MOWIT, was a team leader for the AFL-CIO’s Lean-in Circles for Union Tradeswomen pilot program in St. Louis and was elected to the IUPAT Women’s Committee.
MOWIT ALL-STAR ADVOCATE
Windy Chafin, a 19-year member of Operating Engineers Local 513, won the MOWIT All-Star Advocate Award for her commitment to MOWIT and other organizations in helping educate and mentor women interested into getting into the union building trades.
Chafin, who followed in the footsteps of her father, works for Kuesel Excavating. She is a frequent volunteer on behalf of MOWIT at Build Union Diversity (BUD) program events and serves on MOWIT’s Women in Construction (WIC) Committee, which assists women interested in construction get into the union building trades.
Earlier this year, Chafin served as a guest speaker on an Exploring Careers in Construction panel discussion sponsored by the St. Louis Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction to celebrate Women in Construction Week.
UNION/APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM OF THE YEAR
Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562’s new CHAMPION Program received the Union/Apprenticeship Program of the Year Award. The name Champion is an acronym, and stands for Creating Hometown Advantages Minority Participation In Our Neighborhood.
The extensive, six-week training program is a joint initiative by Local 562, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Eastern Missouri (MCA-EMO) and the Plumbing Industry Council (PIC) to expand membership diversity in the city of St. Louis, while strengthening the Local 562 workforce.
Fourteen graduated from the first CHAMPION program in September reaching pre-apprentice status in Local 562 and were placed for employment with participating mechanical and plumbing contractors of the MCA-EMO and/or PIC. Three of the 14 graduates were women.
CONTRACTOR OF THE YEAR
The PaintSmiths of St Louis, a signatory contractor to Painters District Council 58, won the Contractor of the Year Award. Founded in 1963, the family-owned company specializes in commercial, industrial, high-end residential, special finishes and wallcoverings. Six percent of its workforce is comprised of women – up four percent over last year.
PaintSmiths recognizes the importance of female-only restrooms on job sites and offers ample appropriate-sized personal protective equipment for women in gloves, clothing and harnesses. The company also implements essential programs including continuing education and support, tradeswomen’s advocacy and tradeswomen mentoring.
In fact, the company has a female mentor that works with the female apprentices to support retention and it currently has a female safety director who serves in a leadership role.
Founded in 2008, MOWIT is a non-profit organization that provides tradeswomen with support group meetings, job information and referrals. It also maintains a work list as a resource to the construction community. For more information, call (636) 926-6948 or visit mowit.org.