By SHERI GASSAWAY
Raised in a union family, Holly West understands the value of a union career in the building trades. Her dad is a Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 retiree and her mom is a retired union laborer.
That’s why she signed up for Missouri Women in Trades (MoWIT) Wire a Light Workday held at the St. Louis Workers Education Society (WES) in St. Louis on June 8. MoWIT teamed up with IBEW Local 1 to upgrade the lights to LED at WES, where the MoWIT office is housed.
“My dad gets the Labor Tribune and encouraged me to attend this event,” said West, who currently works as a kitchen manager. “I like the hands-on aspect of this kind of work, and I’m good with tools. Plus, unions offer excellent pay and insurance and job security.”
Attendees were able to learn about the basics of electrical wiring by actually performing the tasks under the close supervision of IBEW Local 1 journey workers, who also shared information on how to become a union electrician.
Katie Lindhorst, who works at a local radio station in the fundraising department, said she found out about the event from a friend who is a union carpenter.
“She thought this might be a good fit for me,” Lindhorst said. “So far, I’ve put up tracks, which I didn’t know I could do.”
J. West Electrical Contracting, IBEW Local 1439 and the St. Louis Electrical Workers Minority Caucus were also partners in the event. Paynecrest Electric and Frost Supply donated all the materials for the project and the PARIC Corporation provided the lunch.
Sabrina Westfall, owner of J. West Electrical Contracting, got her start in the industry through the IBEW Local 1 apprenticeship program in 2002. She went on to become an IBEW Local 1 journeywomen and took her licensing exam to be a master electrician.
“I’m honored to be here for the women to share tips on becoming union electricians and to enlighten them on the possibilities of future ownership,” Westfall said. “I’m also happy to be able to give back to MoWIT and the community.”
MoWIT President Beth Barton, a Carpenters Local 1596 journeywomen, said she was thrilled with the event’s turnout.
“Four women signed up because they said they were interested in becoming an electrician,” Barton said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity for them to experience the trade in a safe and comfortable manner.”
Founded in 2008, MoWIT a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women enter and succeed in careers in the building trades. For more information, visit mowit.org or call 636-926-6948.