Meet our Trailblazing Women of Steel

In honor of Women’s History Month 2022, we are highlighting our very own members and their trailblazing stories.

Trish Creech
Local 3670

Trish joined the USW when she became employed at Bobcat in Gwinner, North Dakota. There she served as trustee and Rapid Response committee chair, and was an active member of the WOS committee.

She was also the first woman in her local to hold a full-time safety position after assisting in developing safety language for full-time reps on all shifts.

Trish was probably always destined to be a labor activist, as she comes from a family of union members, and knows that through a collective voice, workers can make a real difference at their jobs and in their communities.

Karen Shipley
USW District 8 Staff Rep

Karen got her first union job at Marx Toys in Glen Dale, W. Va., in 1973.

When the legendary plant shut down in 1980, she joined USW Local 8851 as a customer service representative at Blue Cross Blue Shield. She dove in headfirst with the union, serving on the Rapid Response committee, as District 8 Women of Steel Coordinator, and as president of the local for three terms.

In 2003, she became a staff representative and still works today helping members across District 8.

Karen said she’ll never forget attending the union’s legislative internship program in 1999. “It really opened my eyes to how much politics and legislation affects our jobs and the labor movement.”

Jessica Ritter
Local 1010

Jessica started working at the Indiana Harbor East mill in 2014 as a third-generation Steelworker.

She was the only woman at the blast furnace then and had to learn how to navigate the male-dominated environment. Now, she is trained as the furnace’s first-ever woman keeper.

Jessica is currently, she’s working on her bachelor’s in labor studies because of her passion for activism.

“Being raised with the importance of group work showed me what solidarity can accomplish,” she said. “I've seen changes on the job that were made possible by myself and my coworkers because of the union.”

Frances Barker
Local 40

Members of Local 40 recently stood together throughout a five-month strike at Special Metals, thanks in part to community support, as well as the work of Women of Steel like Frances Barker.

With the help of many union spouses and other local labor organizations, she and her sisters were able to provide a Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas party with Santa, and are now working on an Easter event.

They also kept the food pantry stocked during those tough months, because, as Frances said, “We are a family and we need to take care of everyone.”

Debra Walls
Local 0425

Debra is not only a Woman of Steel; she’s a woman of perseverance.

She earned a dual degree in electromechanics and industrial engineering—while caring for two children as a single parent—before becoming the first woman hired in the maintenance department of the J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

Her fellow workers quickly began coming to Debra for help with their issues, and soon she decided to attend labor law school.

She has been a shop steward, recording secretary, and trustee for Local 0425 and continues to be active in WOS.

Amber Hartford
Local 105

Amber grew up knowing the value of unions with her father being a proud Teamster truck driver.

She has been involved with Local 105 since she started working at Arconic and is lucky to have had a mentor who encouraged her to be a teller for an election.

She was later voted in as a guard, and now she serves as the first woman vice president of her local union, which has been in existence for more than 70 years. “I will always fight for my union!”

Melody Brawley
Local 1011

Melody admits she wasn’t very educated in how her union, Local 1011, worked until she decided to attend the District 7 education program at the University of Illinois.

“I left summer school and knew my knowledge gain had to be shared,” Melody said.

Since then, she has been unstoppable, becoming a loud, proud union member who is active in Women of Steel, Rapid Response, and organizing.

“The more people who have a voice, the stronger the labor movement becomes, which gives the working class the power to get things done.”

Laura Crowell
Local 00662

Laura works as a control room operator and is one of only five women out of 345 members of Local 00662.

Learning to trust the union came quickly, and she credits them for fostering her 30-year career. She is currently the second woman to hold office in her local, serving as Secretary-Treasurer.

Laura knows there is value in leadership, despite the high-stakes responsibility of representing members, and encourages everyone to speak up and have their voices heard.

Julie Stein
USW SOAR Director

Julie became a union member more than 40 years ago when she started working at Appleton Papers (now Midwest Paper Group) in Wisconsin.

At the mill, she was the first woman to work on the Felt Crew and later in the Wood Yard. Her first elected position of Local 2-144 was Trustee, but she didn’t stop there. She also became Recording Secretary and served on the Bargaining Committee.

After the PACE merger in 2006, she joined USW District 2 as staff and became more active with Women of Steel.

Now she has the privilege of serving as director of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR.) 

Joann Renfro Johnson
Local 801

Joann has served as Recording Secretary of Local 801 in Evadale, Texas, for 31 years.

She is proud to be the first Black woman to sit on the Executive Board and the first to be selected into a supervisory role.

She decided to become involved with the union because she knew women needed representation at the male-dominated mill.

“I would always sit at the head of the table in meetings so that I could have the men on both sides of me,” she said.

“I was like the fly in the buttermilk.” Joann loves knowing she is part of helping the union obtain respect from corporations and fighting on behalf of her fellow members.

Jaci Silva
Local 620

Only one year after joining Local 620 at the BASF chemical plant in Louisiana—at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—Jaci was nominated for Recording Secretary and won.

She is currently fighting for accommodations and leave for pregnant women and their families in the industry, an issue near and dear to Jaci’s heart.

“I know I am a part of a bigger brotherhood and sisterhood,” she said. “I know that my union will do its best to fight alongside me and my passion for women’s rights.”

Gwin Booker
USW District 9 Staff Representative

Gwin worked at the International Paper mill in Rome, Ga., before being offered the opportunity to become a USW Staff Representative.

While at the mill, she held nearly every position at Local 804, and was even the first Black woman to serve as the local’s president.

Gwin was first introduced to the labor movement as a kid because her dad worked at a unionized facility.

She can still remember him talking about the benefits of having a voice at the table. “My dad always allowed me to have a voice.”

Ella Knox
Local 1010

In 1977, at the age of 21, Ella started working at the No. 3 Coke Plant at Indiana Harbor East Inland Steel.

She was one of three women to work in the department at the time and now works as a Feeder on the Pickle Line at the Cold Strip, where Ella broke a record of running 156 coils in eight hours—she has yet to be beaten.

Along with being a member of her department’s safety committee, she is also active with Women of Steel, fighting not only for USW members but for workers around the world.

“Union activism is what helps makes the working class succeed,” Ella said.

Brandi Sanders
Local 13-1

Along with holding the title as the first woman to serve as vice president of Local 13-1, Brandi was also the first woman to be the Oil Policy Region E Representative as well as president of the District 13 Council.

Her journey began 16 years ago at BP Texas City Refinery. Since then, she’s served as steward and has helped members navigate countless workplace health and safety issues.

“Our responsibility is to do what we've been doing as leaders, but do it better, and through our good works leave the organization better than we found it,” Brandi said.

April Littleton
Local 6103

April, who serves as a Guide and WOS Chair for Local 6103, is proud to be a third-generation steelworker, and only the second woman to be an assistant operator on the Shearman 72” Gal line.

Having a strong family has always been important to her, so it made sense to have one at work, too.

“I am always ready to stand up for my fellow union brother or sister. It makes us all stronger.”

Sherry Spencer
Local 12585

Sherry started working at the now Packaging Corporation of America paper mill in Filer City, Mich., in 1977.

At the time, she was the first woman in her mill, and she had to fight her way to basic respect on the job.

There was no women’s restroom or showers, and no female companionship among men who did not want her around.

Sherry persevered, and ultimately more women were hired into the mill, whom she guided and mentored for the next 40 years, inspiring Sherry herself to step into leadership roles within Local 12585.

Vernell Butler-Lomax
Local 10-00086

When Vernell started working at Merck & Co. in the 1990s, a supervisor was displaying bias and acting discriminatory towards her, which Vernell wasn’t going to accept.

She stood up for herself and became a shop steward in 1999 to help fight for her fellow siblings.

“I believe we should all treat each other the way we want to be treated,” she said, which is why Vernell decided to run for office and also get involved with the local’s Civil and Human Rights committee.

“We all have a voice and should speak up for ourselves and others.”

Bonnie Carey
SOAR Chapter 11-4

Bonnie used her time as a Steelworker committed to safety.

She worked at Alcoa Davenport Works (now Arconic) as the first woman to operate the CNC Mills in her department and later trained on the trucks and overhead cranes. She also became a safety rep and would go on to train the whole plant.

Bonnie was also active in Women of Steel and Rapid Response, serving as the coordinator for both until her retirement in 2009, but not before forming SOAR Chapter 11-4.

She completed Leadership Scholarship training within the first two years of this new chapter of her life and stays involved in political campaigns because, as Bonnie said, “Unions are the only way to fight back!”

Kim Smith
USW District 9 Staff Rep

After a tumultuous election, Kim became the first woman to hold the office of President at Local 508 and would go on to win four more times.

She has worked hard and diligently in representing workers who are organizing and bargaining first contracts, including the rubber workers in Liberia who fought for a fair officer election.

Being a woman in a male-dominated world is what inspired Kim to remain active in the union.

“True activism is not sitting on the sidelines, but putting my passion into action to grow the movement and represent every voice.”

Juana Sotelo
Local 8599

As a Special Education Teacher’s Assistant, Juana has a natural desire to help people, and that includes her fellow members of Local 8599 in Fontana, California.

She decided to step up and get more involved as a Woman of Steel, and eventually became the local’s Scholarship chair.

Next up for Juana is the Organizing committee. “I am so eager to learn and to help my fellow union family become part of our local.”

Jacqueline Boyce
Local 1148

Jacqueline worked at International Paper in Texas for 20 years before her union merged with the United Steelworkers.

The following year, she attended the USW Civil and Human Rights Conference in Nashville and was inspired by Women of Steel Director Ann Flener’s speech.

Jacqueline ran for vice president of her plant’s Technology Lab, and in 2011 she became the first woman of color to hold the office.

One of her main motivations is keeping her fellow workers educated about their rights under their collective bargaining agreement. “Union activism is my purpose.”

Bonnie Reese
Local 6787

Although Bonnie was always proud to be a Steelworker, she didn’t get involved with her local union until someone suggested she run for Recording Secretary.

After serving two terms, she took over editing the Local 6787 newsletter and joined the Emergency Response Team (ERT) for the chance to serve members and families in their time of need.

She also loves sharing labor history and encouraging new Women of Steel to get active.

“We can build the union one outreach at a time,” she said.

Sherry Nelson
Local 6787

As a service technician and Woman of Steel, Sherry is humble about her contributions to the labor movement.

What matters to her is helping people, and being a trustworthy person her colleagues can come to for any reason.

And if she can’t help, she will do whatever she needs to make sure she points you in the right direction.

She knew she wanted to be active with the union when she saw how solidarity and collective action across demographics gets things done for the greater good. “I knew I had to be a part of it,” she said.

Jenny Yates
Local 1167

Jenny was one of four women who worked in the power house of the Weyerhaeuser timber company before moving to the woodyard department, which was no easy task.

Management delayed her move, and Jenny had to get the local union involved, revealing to her the power of labor.

She also suffered a workplace injury, resulting in a lifetime scar, but she pushed forward and helped make the mill safer as a result.

“We can’t just talk about change,” Jenny said. “We need to be a part of it.”

Karen and Elizabeth Halladay
Local 10421

Karen grew up listening to her father tell stories about the union and how there is value in collective bargaining.

When she joined Local 10421, she immediately got involved. Over the years, she’s been a union steward and chair of the Women of Steel (WOS) committee. She’s also honored to assist in facilitating District 1’s WOS Development Course and seeing other union sisters, including her daughter Elizabeth, grow into their activism.

Elizabeth, inspired by her parents’ union involvement, became the first woman to serve as the local’s Vice President.

Kuyzendra Cobb
Local 0425

Kuyzendra was hired at Roanoke Rapids Mill in 1983, becoming the first woman assigned to the paper mill’s instrument shop.

Thirty years later, in 2013, she became the first female electrical and instrument maintenance planner.

Kuyzendra has been active in her union and in her community throughout the years, serving on the board of the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, the AFL-CIO Eastern Piedmont Central Labor Council, and the AFL-CIO Racial Justice Committee.

In 2016, she even won the USW Jefferson Award for District 9 for her years of exemplary community service.

Linda Lucas
Retiree, Local 13702

Before embarking on her well-earned retirement, Linda worked at Local 13702 in Detroit alongside men digging burial graves and maintaining cemetery grounds.

She served as president of the amalgamated local, which consisted of 18 units, for several terms.

Then, in 1999, at the USW 29th Constitutional Convention, Linda became one of the first two women to serve as tellers for the election of International officers.

She’s been involved in the Women of Steel program since its inception and has mentored countless women in Michigan and Wisconsin over the years, even as a retiree.

Melanie Sias
Local 40

Melanie has worked at Special Metals for 18 years, and although she is the only woman in her department, she’s proud to say she is treated as an equal.

She became the chair of Local 40’s Women of Steel (WOS) committee just before she and her fellow workers went on strike in October 2021.

She and her WOS activists have banded together to help the local endure the strike now going on six months, organizing food drives, holiday meals, and an upcoming Easter egg hunt.

Melanie said they wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the support of their community and other unions.

Jessica Rios
USW Local 3657

When Jessica was hired by the USW Strategic Campaigns department in 2019, she became the first Puerto Rican woman to work at the International headquarters.

Before coming to Pittsburgh, Jessica was actively engaged with Local 6135, serving not only as Vice President, but also as the Women of Steel and Next Gen coordinator for the whole island of Puerto Rico.

“When I got the chance to become a union member, I decided that I was going to make the most out of it,” she said.

Cheryl Husk
Local 9423

Cheryl’s involvement with labor and political activism earned the USW member the Rosie the Riveter Award by the Kentucky AFL-CIO in 2021.

And no wonder! In 2015, she became the first woman to hold the office of Recording Secretary of Local 9423 and became the Women of Steel Facilitator for the state of Kentucky in 2018. She’s lobbied, phone-banked, and negotiated contracts.

For Cheryl, her family is what pushes her to stay active. “I began to understand that if my children were to have safe workplaces, a clean environment, the protections of workers’ compensation and a living wage, I had to get involved.”

Brenda Scotland
USW District 9 Staff Rep

Brenda signed her union card the first day she went to work at Owens Corning in Anderson, S.C., in the summer of 1977.

Her mother worked at the plant before it was unionized, and as a black woman, she was not allowed to work in the production operations. Brenda committed herself to helping fellow marginalized workers feel respected.

She became Local 15’s first woman Chief Steward, the first Black Safety Chairperson, the first Black worker to chair the Business Committee, and the first woman and Black person to serve as President.

Now working a USW Staff Representative, Local 15 is still near and dear to Brenda’s heart.

Amber Miller
USW Rapid Response Director

After serving two terms as Recording Secretary, Amber became the first woman of Local 7248 elected as President.

She said she owes this win to being on the union’s Rapid Response team, which allowed her to get to know members personally and have in-depth conversations.

Amber also attributes her activism to her mother, who served as Recording Secretary for the same local for more than a decade.

Amber even once closed out the very same minute book her mother started.

Trisha Garcia
Local 8599

In 2020, Trisha broke barriers when she was appointed Trustee for Local 8599, which represents the classified staff and employees of the Fontana Unified School District, becoming the first Next Gen member to sit on the executive board.

She dedicates her free time not only to her union but to her community, serving on the board of the nonprofit Music Changing Lives.

Last November, Trisha was awarded the gold level of the President's Volunteer Service Award for doing 500+ hours of volunteer service in one year. “It's amazing what we can accomplish when we work together for the greater good,” she said.

Mary Fluere
SOAR Chapter 1915

Mary found purpose in the union when she was hired at Mapa Pioneer, represented by the United Rubber Workers before merging with the USW.

She was one of the first Women of Steel from District 1 to attend training at Linden Hall and became the first woman elected president of Local 804L.

She would go on to run for local politics and graduate from college.

Now, she serves as an active retiree and continues advocating for workers to have a voice and for greedy companies to be held accountable.

Katrina Fitzgerald
Local 3657

Katrina’s journey as an activist began at a steel mill in Canton, Ohio, where she served her home local in multiple capacities, including Vice President—the first woman elected to the position.

Now she is proud to serve in the USW Strategic Campaigns department working with members to build power and leverage for bargaining or labor disputes.

She was also instrumental in helping the union form the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, which she serves on alongside multiple USW activists. “Our union belongs to all of us,” she said.

Cindy Marlow
Local 8823

Cindy joined the USW in 1989 and immediately faced discrimination based on her gender.

She was repeatedly told her job was “women’s work” and therefore paid lower, and she was held back from receiving her commercial driver’s license.

When the company tried to fire her after giving birth to her son, Cindy committed herself to learning everything she could about the union.

She would eventually become president of her local and now serves as the chair for the Women of Steel Western New York Regional Council in District 4.

She is alsoa facilitator for the WOS Leadership Development Course and Keeping Breast Cancer Out of the Workplace. 

Amber Stoer
Local 12911

Amber knows how to fight and win.

After giving birth to her son, she returned to work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in California, only to be told she would have to use the back of her ambulance to pump.

Amber jumped into action and contacted the Department of Labor with the goal of changing this unsanitary policy on a national level.

Now, EMS workers no longer have to use their ambulances for lactation, and Amber continues standing up to companies and fighting for nursing mothers’ rights.

Sarah Smith
Local 6787

On July 30, 2008, Sarah was working at the Cleveland Cliffs’ blast furnace in Burns Harbor, Ind., when her father, who worked in the same department, was in a near-fatal accident on the train tracks.

After multiple surgeries, Sarah’s father survived. The trauma caused by this event set the Woman of Steel on her path to activism.

“I never wanted to see another person go through the heartache our family had,” she said.

Sarah serves as trustee of Local 6787 and knows that standing together always sends a stronger message than standing alone.

Korene Mansfield
Local 715L

When Korene was hired into her plant in 1992, she was one of many women brought in around the same time.

A few of her local union sisters encouraged her to run for a seat on the executive board and eventually became the second woman to be elected into her role.

She now makes it a point to push other women to run for office within their locals and is now a facilitator for District 7’s summer school program.

Julie Searle
Local 955

Julie’s story of labor activism began when she faced a discrimination issue in relation to her workplace insurance.

She didn’t let it keep her down—she ran for grievance chair and even served as president of Local 955.

Now entering her second term as vice president of the Syracuse Labor Council, Julie wants all union members to benefit from strong locals that work hard to not only fight for more at contract time, but also that work to keep members safe and respected on the job.

Jamie Asby
Local 1423

When Jamie started working at the Weyerhaeuser paper mill in 1987, she was thrilled because good-paying union jobs were and still are hard to come by in the South.

She was also proud to become a third-generation paper maker and to sign her union card on day one.

Jamie became a steward, a trustee, and then vice president of her local, and now, she serves as president of Local 1423—she was the first woman to hold all of these positions.

“I give all my thanks to union jobs and all the women who have gone before me and continue to shine!”

Virnetta Nevilles
Local 7-706

As a Starch Operator and Bulk Load Out Operator, Virnetta Nevilles is a Woman of Steel who knows how to #BreaktheBias!

Her father convinced her at a young age of the importance of unions, and when she had questions about contract negotiations, she decided to get involved and eventually won a seat on the bargaining committee of Local 706.

Today, Virnetta still holds her local positions, is very active with the WOS committee, and is the first woman from the local to hold an executive board position on the Central Indiana AFL-CIO.

Tawnya Gustafson
Local 2660

Tawnya didn’t grow up in the most supportive home, and as an adult, she’s committed herself to being the best she can be, whether at work or with her family.

In 2013, she was hired at Keewatin Taconite in northern Minnesota and was amazed by all the USW had to offer.

Last year, she ran for and won the position of vice president of Local 2660 and was the first woman elected to the role at any Iron Range Mine in the state. “I truly just want to inspire others,” she said.

Deanna Hughes
Local 9460

Being the “first woman” to do anything was never of interest to Deanna—she simply wanted to be her best.

She learned a lot about teamwork and strength in numbers during her 12 years of service in the U.S. Army and National Guard as an engineer.

She also became the first woman to hold the Army’s title of “Master Blaster” and was a certified demolition and explosives expert.

Now, as a Woman of Steel, Deanna works as a radiologic technologist and serves as president of Local 9460 in Minnesota.

Sandi Shoen
Local 9558

When the union first came to Sandi’s workplace in 2017, she voted “no” for the union. Then she began to see the true value of being in a union, particularly in how the changes impacted bargaining unit members.

Not only did Sandi join, but she became the first Recording Secretary of Local 9558.

She also now serves as the Women of Steel committee chair and has helped turn it into an active force in the community.

“There are so many opportunities to grow, learn, and help others when you’re a part of a union.”

Rosemary Boykin
Local 9671

Rosemary, a Gage Technician at U.S. Steel Oil Services, is serving her second term as the first woman president of Local 9671 in Pine Bluff, Ark.

She says that although this work is certainly not a piece of cake—as she often has to fight for those who fight against her—she is up for the challenge, because her love of people overshadows all.

One of her proudest accomplishments is getting her company to recognize the union’s safety committee.

Marly Sandoval
USW District 12 Staff Rep

Marly’s start as a union activist began in 2008 when she joined Local 183 at St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif.

She signed on as a steward, was elected vice president of her local, then president. Over the years, she helped grow the union and build solidarity among 800 members.

Now Marly serves as a Staff Representative.

One of the best gifts she believes the union gave her was the opportunity to attend the Leadership Scholarship Program. “I will be forever grateful,” she said.

Lorraine Hernandez (and her mother Ann Marie Ruiz)
Local 183

Not only is Lorraine a third-generation USW member, but she serves as treasurer of Local 183 alongside her mother, who is currently vice president.

“I have seen her dedicate herself to a cause she was passionate about,” Lorraine said. “Her heart is for the people.” 

Lorraine has seen firsthand how much communication is key to being a successful leader and how taking a stand for others is one of the most courageous things one can do.

“I admire my mother and those before me who decided to stand for working people.”

Krystal Hubble
Local 7-706

Krystal’s union activism began with a terrible accident. While leaving work, after only being employed for several months, she was struck by a car.

Her company tried to blame Krystal for the accident, which resulted in her needing two total knee replacements. 

She stepped up and joined the USW’s Emergency Response Team to help fellow members navigate traumatic experiences.

She still serves today and fights to ensure what happened to her never happens again.

Fentre Graves
USW District 9 Staff Rep

For USW Staff Representative Fentre Graves, the most rewarding part of her job is helping others to achieve dignity in their workplaces.

She began her union career at Goodyear in 1997 and got involved with the organizing committee.

In 2001, she went on her first organizing drive in Kentucky and never looked back.

Fentre knows that organizing campaigns don’t always show immediate results, but when they finally do “it makes all the hard work well worth it.”

Felicia Harvey
Local 8888

Felicia has been working at the historic Newport News Shipyard for 39 years.

When she started her journey, she simply wanted to be more active and help her fellow workers get the answers they wanted and needed.

She became an assistant shop steward, a representative for seven departments, and chair of her Women of Steel committee.

Now she serves as facilitator for the Virginia state WOS program where she is able to help other women fulfill their dreams.

Brenda English
Local 6787

When the Financial Secretary of the local union at Bethlehem Steel retired before his term was over, an opportunity opened for Brenda English that she could not resist.

The sister made history and became Local 6787’s first woman and first Black member to hold the position.

She is driven by her passion to help folks with workplace issues and educate new members on the benefits of the union.

She’s thrilled to mentor sisters who attend Women of Steel meetings and is proud to carry on her family’s union tradition.

Ashley Van Ellis
Local 1191

Ashley is one of four women in her shop to become a chemical operator in the last two years and the only woman qualified as a rubber mill operator.

When she took this step, she gained more respect from the men at work and inspired other women to step out of their comfort zones to apply for more challenging roles.

“I count this as a win for all the women in my shop,” Ashley said. “It reveals so much strength in my fellow union sisters.”

Kelly Weaver
USW District 10 Staff Rep

Along with serving as a Staff Representative, Kelly Weaver is also Unit Secretary of Local 3403-25.

Her journey started the way many members’ do—by being asked to step up into a position that others were unwilling to hold.

For Kelly, the value in being an active union member is being a voice for those who are afraid or intimidated to use their own.

Jennifer Fletcher
Local 200L

Jennifer is proud to serve active and retired members as a Benefits Representative for Local 200L in St. Mary’s, Ohio.

She has gone above and beyond to bring retirees together—during monthly coffee gatherings and via social media—because she knows her union would not exist if it weren’t for them.

For Jennifer, who is also active with her Women of Steel and Workers’ Comp committees, this is more than just a job—it’s a calling and an honor.


Megan Sellers
Local 12275

Working in the male-dominated world of transmission maintenance has tested Megan.

She’s been bullied simply for being “the girl,” and in the past, she let these attacks define her as a person. Then she gave birth to her daughter.

“I realized if I wanted to raise a strong, independent woman, I first needed to be that for her. I need to lead by example. I need to not let what people say define me, but show through my actions who I am.”

Heather Anderson
District 8 Sub-District Director

Heather Anderson’s labor story began in 2004 in her hometown of Buckhannon, W. Va., where she joined Local 477 at Corhart Refractories.

Her mother was also a member of the local at the time and encouraged Heather to get involved. She ran for and won the position of recording secretary, became active with Women of Steel, and eventually was hired by the USW as a Staff Representative.

Heather is now proud to serve as District 8’s first-ever Sub-District Director, and she never forgets her mother’s confidence in her union.

Pamela Lewis
Local 307

When Pamela began working at Goodyear, her husband was serving as a steward, which allowed her to see the difference the union made, in the workplace and out in her community.

This is where she found her calling to help others. She became active in the USW and ran for Recording Secretary, becoming one of the first women in her local to hold the position. “I like fighting for the little guy,” Pamela said. 

Stacey Jones
Local 1165

Stacey Jones, recording secretary of Local 1165 in Coatesville, Pa., broke barriers in 2000 when she became the first Black worker and first woman to qualify as #1 Operator at her 140” rolling mill, one of the largest production plants in the US.

This was far from easy, especially in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “I’ve learned that what doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger!”

Jackie Anklam
Local 9899

Jackie Anklam won’t ever forget her father telling her, when she started her job as an Environmental Service Tech at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, Mich., to keep her mouth shut and her head down because it was a non-union facility.

This fired her up, and when her fellow workers decided to organize in 2003, she knew she had to get involved. The rest was history.

“I do not regret ever taking this stand. I have seen first-hand what activism can do.”

Gail Richardson
Local 1010

Gail became a third-generation steelworker in 1969 when she was hired at Inland Steel (now Cleveland Cliffs) as a weigher.

She would go on to become the first woman to hold the Assistant Griever position in her department, the first to work on the 4 Pickling Line unit as an operator helper, and one of three women who became an asbestos abater.

For this Woman of Steel, everything comes down to safety.

“Our local union motto is, ‘We make the job safe or we don’t do it!’ and we strive to follow it every day.”

Dawn Dooley
Local 8599

Dawn became president of her local at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has helped keep her membership safe and connected.

As classified staff and employees of the Fontana Unified School District, they’ve kept the community fed, the students advancing, and the facilities maintained through it all.

Dawn has learned they are part of something larger than just their local union.


Lizbeth Hiraldo
Local 6871

Lizbeth Hiraldo is a woman of firsts.

She was the first woman to hold the position of Recording Secretary in her local union as well as the first woman to hold the position of Director in Security/Safety Management within the private sector and tourism industry in Puerto Rico, opening the door for other women to follow. 

Now, this is what we like to see! #BreaktheBias

Mariel Cruz
Local 6871

Mariel Cruz is another Woman of Steel who is #BreakingtheBias. She is able to say with great pride that she serves as the first woman president of Local 6871 representing the College of Engineers and Land Surveyors in Puerto Rico.

Mariel’s drive for justice for workers is about making sure they know they aren’t alone.

“It is about being able to contribute that grain of sand to make my country one with less political and social elitism, and balance justice for all the workers who rise up every day to forge their daily bread.”

Arvella Greenlaw
Local 6787

One of the things that keeps third-generation Steelworker Arvella Greenlaw inspired and active in the union is the tragic death of her uncle as the result of a workplace injury.

Along with working at the Cleveland Cliffs’ Burns Harbor mill in Indiana, she serves as a safety instructor and educates members on labor history and worker safety.

She was also named the 2021 USW Cares District 7 Jefferson Award winner.

Click here to learn more about her award.

Tammie Botelho
Local 134L

Along with serving as a Business Representative for Local 134L in Milford, Connecticut, Tammie Botelho is Vice President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

She’s been incredibly active with the USW’s Rapid Response and Women of Steel programs.

For Tammie, education and activism are necessary to being a union member.

Ann Flener-Gittlen
USW Women of Steel Director

This year marks WOS Director Ann Flener-Gittlen’s 50th year as a union member!

Ann’s long history of activism began in the ‘70s doing picket duty for several strikes against Rubbermaid Inc. She eventually became president of USW Local 302—after being told that a woman would never hold that position—and would go on to help establish the union’s WOS program.

She’s served as a mentor to many and believes that getting involved with the union was the best investment she ever made for herself and her family.