It is totally crazy that paid parental leave isn’t just automatically a thing that any parent of any gender gets as part of their employment contracts. Families first, right? Alas, in the United States, that’s just how it is. Until the federal government comes up with a paid parental leave regulation that employers have to offer, many industries are taking it upon themselves to be part of the change. Usually, this happens in higher paying industries, like in Silicon Valley, which is why it’s pretty amazing that a union of female ironworkers won six months of paid maternity leave.
Even more impressive? The Ironworkers union has 130,000 members and only 2,100 of them are women, which means that the minority made their voices heard really, really loudly.
Six months of paid leave is a benefit that not many people in America have. There are only a handful of companies that offer that much, like Spotify, Netflix, Adobe, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The six months leave is meant to protect pregnant women before and after delivery, since the nature of ironwork is pretty physical and some women in the negotiating room had suffered miscarriages they connect to their work. So the new agreement is as much about giving women leave, but also taking care of and retaining their workers. It’s beneficial to both parties, according to the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT).
Vicki O’Leary, an Ironworker representative said in a statement:
“I’m extremely excited about this policy and I think it’s going to help with retention of ironworker women and encourage them to build a career. It’s one more step in achieving greater diversity in our trade.”
Other members of the union sort of surprised themselves with how the negotiations turned out.
“When we first started talking about it, I wasn’t sure how we’d pull it off and what it would cost, but we realized that it’s an investment because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work,” Co-Chair of IMPACT, Bill Brown said.
Yes, maybe the CEOs of the construction companies compromised on the leave in the name of getting the best return on their investment (it costs about $30,000to train an ironworker, so if someone leaves the industry, the loss is estimated to be double that) and not because it’s what civilized societies do, but whatever works to keeps women and their babies healthier and happier throughout pregnancy and after delivery.