Minnesota Women of Steel share their stories as leaders, unionists with local students

When Tawnya Gustafson decided to run for vice president of USW Local 2660, she did it with her young daughters at the forefront of her mind. She wanted to prove to them that women could do and be anything.

Gustafson won and is now the first woman to ever serve as vice president of the U.S. Steel taconite mining local in Minnesota.

“It’s always been a male-dominated environment here,” Gustafson said. “Women just traditionally have not worked in the mine.”

That’s changing, of course, with women like Gustafson stepping up. This shift, along with her personal passion for talking with and inspiring others, led the mother and miner to reach out to her daughter’s high school and organize the first-ever Women in the Workforce event, held on Wed., Sept. 29.

“We Can Do It! The Sky’s the Limit” was the theme for the inaugural program, co-sponsored by Hibbing Community College, that provided an opportunity for ten women in traditionally male-dominated jobs to share their stories with young women in grades 10-12 at Hibbing High School.

USW District 11 also assisted the local with planning the event, with Assistant to the Director Cathy Drummond sharing her career story as part of the panel.

“I started in a more traditional role for women in health care, then moved into a union position at the Steelworkers,” said Drummond. “I never envisioned being where I am now and being able to speak on behalf of women in labor. It was an empowering day.”

Local 1938 Women of Steel Chair Kori Meskill also graced the stage to share her experience as a millwright in the maintenance department at U.S. Steel Minntac.

Journeys like these are why Gustafson is driven to stay engaged with the community and with the next generation, reminding them of their endless possibilities.

“Even if we touched one young woman’s life to inspire her to follow her passion, it was worth it,” said Gustafson.

Click here to watch a local TV report on the Women in the Workforce event.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222