California labor leader and longtime IAM member Shelley Kessler tells the story of her start in the labor movement and discusses challenges facing women in the workplace in a Q&A celebrating Women’s History Month.
“Social and economic justice struggles have been the basis and run throughout my adult life,” said Kessler. “Maybe that can be the cornerstone of what motivates me; but it is the implementation that is the hardest to accomplish.”
Kessler, a member of IAM Local 1414, serves as head of the San Mateo County Labor Council, vice president of the California State Labor Federation and an IAM delegate to the AFL-CIO.
“The IAM has really stepped up to recognize more women in the trade,” said Kessler. “We are one of the few internationals with both a women’s department and an educational training center specifically for our union members.”
But there’s still work left to be done to make the labor movement more inclusive for women, says Kessler.
“Current leaders need to learn how to mentor and create plans for change and stick to them,” said Kessler. “It’s important for women to also build each other up and encourage each other to speak up. There are so many meetings I’ve attended where the conversation can be a bit male-dominated but I can see women in the room who I know have important insights to share. We need to make space for them to do so.”