IBEW Women Wire Habitat for Humanity House in All-Women Project

(By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor)  Inside a brand-new Habitat Humanity house under construction in north Minneapolis, an all-women crew is volunteering to complete the electrical work. They're members of Sisters in Solidarity — SIS — from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Twin Cities' locals.

"We have volunteers from Local 292 and Local 110. We have apprentices and we also have Limited Energy members as well," said Whitney Hunter, Robbinsdale, a 9-year member of IBEW Local 292.

On this beautiful late October Saturday, "our goal is to get the majority of the rough-in completed," explained Jennifer Gaspersich, Local 292 business agent and the chairperson of SIS.

"Typically for the Habitat homes, they need to hire the skilled trades," Hunter related. "That's what's really special about this; Habitat does not need to hire the electricians and all the electricians who are here are women."

Although they're donating their labor, members of SIS still needed to prepare a competitive bid and submit it to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

AID Electric, Blaine, pulled the permit for the job and paid for it while the local chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association paid for all the material.

Rosie Gunelson, Vadnais Heights, a fourth-year Local 292 apprentice, was one of the 17 IBEW women on the job October 22. "I wanted to be an electrician my whole life," she said. Until she entered the trade, she shared, "I used to sit at a desk job... I wanted to be able to build things with my hands..."

Gunelson has been involved with SIS since the group got started about three years ago. The mission: "Empower women to be fully engaged members of the IBEW and civil society."

"We want to be able to give back and show our solidarity as women," Gunelson said. "The first goal we had was to do a Habitat house."

"We want to say, 'hey girls, there's women electricians out there,'" she said.

"I was on jobsites for many years without any other women on the site," reported Gaspersich, who has worked 19 years in the trade.

Currently, she said, Local 292 has about 150-200 women members, although that's not a number the local tracks.

"Coming onto this project with all these women, there's a strong sense of camaraderie," Hunter said.

IBEW Local 292 Sisters in Solidarity meets the fourth Thursday of every month at 4:00 p.m.

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Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/ibewsisters

Project video can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/MNBldgTrades/