Top 10 List: Women in Building Trades and Unions

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Ontario’s unions and building trades represent more than 80,000 skilled tradespeople in Ontario, coordinating the efforts of the affiliated local unions ensuring all workers in the construction industry receive fair wages and benefits.

There are many outstanding, competent, professional women in these trades and unions. We’ve sought nominations and recommendations from relevant unions, and also conducted our own research to create this list. The women work in a diversity of trades and occupations, but all share a common drive for excellence and support/participation within organized labour..

We have put together a list of 10 of them. Here they are, in no particular order:

Bailey McKendrick

When Bailey McKendrick got into welding she didn’t realize how male-dominated it was until after she finished college and began applying for jobs. But she finally did land her first gig and actually appreciates the candor of men in her trade. Men, she says, will tell you what they think straight up!

Although the pipe fitter, who is member of UA Local 46 in Toronto, enjoys her job, she says it is a lot of hard work with early mornings, long nights, blood sweat and broken bones … and, yes, tears, too. She has tried everything and prides herself on taking the opportunities that come her way.

McKendrick says when people find that thing which makes them feel alive inside, they should never give it up. All she has ever wanted, she says, is to be treated the same and given the same chances as anyone else. But all the struggles she has dealt with has brought her to the place she is today and the woman who is forever evolving.

Blazenka Monachino

Blazenka Monachino is a protection and control technologist at Hydro One Inc. She received her diploma in Electrical Engineering Technology – Controls from Mohawk College. She also has her Certified Engineering Technologist (CET) from the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technologists and Technicians (OACETT). She has been working in electrical power’s private and public sector for more than 20 years.

She started in the high voltage stations service Industry focusing on providing reliable service to commercial and industrial customers across Ontario. After joining utility, her career kept developing and growing in the field of high voltage stations protection and control. Some of her undertakings involve the commissioning of high voltage stations, as well as taking on coordinating and supervisory roles. Monachino says she is passionate about advocating for and the promoting of a diverse and inclusive culture, as well as the building of strong, collaborative teams. She currently serves as the chairperson of the Women in Trades Technology and Engineering at Hydro One Inc. Network Committee.

Debbie Fernandes

Debbie Fernandes is a confidential executive assistant to the business manager of LiUNA (The Labourers’ International Union of North America) Local 183, which represents more than 56,000 members. Fernandes has also held the position of human resources co-ordinator and confidential assistant to the Local’s chief financial officer. She commenced her employment at LiUNA Local 183 in February 2010.

Fernandes handles a full range of administrative and office management duties at the local, who includes maintaining the business manager’s schedule, planning meetings for senior executive staff, preparing executive board reports for monthly meetings and co-ordinating local union events held annually, including its golf tournament, Family Day, scholarship fund dinner, St. Patrick’s Day, Portugal Day and Labour Day. She also volunteers for annual retiree events.

Victoria C. Mancinelli

Since May 2017, Victoria Mancinelli has been LiUNA’s director of communications and public relations. Before joining LiUNA, she had her own public relations consulting firm, VM Consultants.

Having grown up in a trade union family, Mancinelli learned from a young age the importance of fighting for the rights of union members and their families. Building better lives and better communities for LiUNA’s members and their families has been paramount to her for years.

Victoria is a former Member of the Exhibition Place Board of Governors. She volunteers her time to many causes and events including the Ephraim’s Place Community Centre, the Down Syndrome Association, the Eva Rothwell Centre, Women’s Habitat, Prostate Cancer Canada and Sinai Health Foundation.

She is a graduate of the Humber College Public Relations Program and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government from the University of Toronto.

Lisa Petronski

Lisa Petronski is a 17-year member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 128 and a member of the Society of United Professionals. She is a first line manager for construction projects at Bruce Power.

Petronski is a natural leader with years of experience in supervisory roles. She is safety conscious and proficient in industrial safety regulations and promotes safe work practices.

She routinely participates in face-to-face and written information exchanges between co-workers and managers, utilizing her exceptional communication skills. Lisa is a team motivator and champions all team members to maximize their involvement to ensure they are working to their full potential.

She demonstrates uncompromising high standards and drive for accountability and results. Her energetic spirit and positive attitude has helped her achieve many of her personal and professional goals.

Amanda Golightly

Amanda Golightly is a member of The Canadian Union of Skilled Workers (CUSW). Years ago, she completed a skills assessment which pointed her in the direction of trades. She attended the Women in Skilled Trades program at the Centre in Burlington which eventually lead to her current role as a construction electrician.

For women pondering whether or not to venture into the trades, her advice is, “stop thinking about going into a trade and just do it.” She said there are so many options out there that offer great ways of earning a living and keeping physically active while doing so.

If she could make one thing better, it would be to increase the promotion of all the incredible opportunities in construction trades for both men and women through public awareness initiatives.

Brandi Ferenc

Brandi Frenec’s blue collar roots couldn’t keep her nailed to a desk for eight hours each work day. At the age of 30, she decided a career change was in order. She said she wanted a job in which she couldn’t be replaced by a computer, so she chose the HVAC industry.

Frenec says a career in the trades gives her the chance to work with her hands and to be active, not to mention it provides great benefits and a pension. So, from her first day on the job, she was getting paid to learn which helped her to pay off her school debts. Women, she said, should just jump in with both feet and not look back. And there are other advantages – she can do her own repairs at her home and cottage and can even have a technical conversation with her mechanic about her car.

The one thing she would change; however, is having apprentices work alongside a journeyman for at least the first year – back to the old days, when journeymen took apprentices under their wings.

Jamie McMillan

This journeyman ironworker with Local 736 in Hamilton, is the founder of Journeyman, It’s a Status, Not a Gender and co-founder of Workplace Equality Awareness Ribbon. She had worked on job sites across the country as an ironworker and welder in steel mills; hydro, car, gas, oil plants and mines.

She says that inequality is still very common in construction; however, with more women entering the workforce and proving themselves, they are slowly breaking down barriers. There still needs to be more inclusion at worksites and accountability.

McMillan envisions an equal and diverse workplace free from all type of harassment, discrimination and bullying regardless of differences, age, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, political views and physical disability.

She loves what she does. It allows her to live a self-sufficient, independent lifestyle with the knowledge she’ll be doing something new and adventurous every day.

Lynn Bedard

Lynn Bedard is a utility service rep with Union Gas in the Hamilton region. She responds to leak investigations, installs gas meters, among other things. She is a G2 gas fitter and member of Unifor, a private sector union representing more than 310,000 members in Canada.

Choosing a career in the trades was pretty easy for Bedard, coming from a family with two brothers already in the trades and her involvement in home renovation projects. She pursued a pre-apprenticeship plumbing course at Sheridan College, which she said gave her the confidence to know she could do the job and that she would enjoy the work.

These days, she uses her knowledge and experience to help identify and solve problems that people may have and educates them on the safe use of natural gas.

Patty Coates

In her job as the secretary treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Patty Coates is no stranger to activism. She is also an education assistant and long-time Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) member.

She was elected to the OFL in 2015 to help rally members of a united labour movement in the province. Coates was also the president of the Barrie and District Labour Council for eight years, vice-president and council delegate and labour co-chair of the Simcoe Muskoka Workforce Development Board.

Her background as a labour council activist drives her commitment to community-based, grassroots labour activism bringing together union member at a local level. Her commitment to equality has earned her a stellar reputation as a mentor and supporter of young women new to the labour movement and political activism.

OCR special feature written by Diane Barton

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