The "Do Not Hire Lady Ironworkers!" Union Benefits Package
Female ironworkers are about to get big chunk of paid maternity leave, reports Buzzfeed's Cora Lewis. Six to eight months of paid maternity leave before delivery, and six to eight weeks post-delivery.
The membership of the 130,000-strong Ironworkers union is an overwhelmingly male crowd, but the approximately 2,100 women just won a benefit that would be prized by working women across the country: Six months of paid maternity leave.
The leave, designed to be taken prior to delivery, complements six to eight weeks of post-delivery leave.
"The challenges of physical work associated with the ironworking trade create unique health challenges that can jeopardize a pregnancy," the union said in a statement announcing the benefit, noting that paid maternity leave "is virtually unheard of in the building trades."
...Bill Brown, CEO of Ben Hur Construction Co., called the benefit "an investment, because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work."
A company can choose to do this -- but a mandate from the union? Not good.
I'm not saying that it's a bad idea for women to take leave around their pregnancy -- especially women in dangerous jobs. But who should pay for this?
I've blogged about this before -- how these mandated paid maternity leave packages are likely to affect women's hiring.
So, here's an employee whom you will be forced to give six months of with pay -- an employee who, at the end of it, maybe decide not to return at all.
You could hire that employee or an employee who does not get the chunk of leave.
Tough choiciepoo, huh?
Oh, and notice that nobody's mentioning time off for the men who are daddies, paid or otherwise. Perhaps the logic is that men don't endure the physical costs of pregnancy.
And check this out:
Using back-of-the-envelope calculations, Brown estimated that training a new iron worker costs $32,000 over the course of a four-year apprenticeship, during which time the workers are also paid regular salaries.
"So when you add payroll to 32K a year, and you lose a woman worker, you're out more than 32K," he said. "Then you have to train another person to take their place, so it's a 64K proposition if you lose one female apprentice.
"To protect our investment, if we wanted women to stay in our industry, we had to do something."
Brown acts as co-chair of the Iron Workers labor-management working group, which came up with the plan for six months of paid leave along with Iron Workers General President Eric Dean.
Dean said he believes the benefit is the first of its kind in the building industry, but that he hopes it will be a model for others. The working group began talking about maternity benefits when looking into why such a high number of women were leaving the workforce for other professions.
"We've always had women, but never had an abundance of women," Dean said. "And many of them were leaving the industry after we spent an inordinate amount of time training them."
Maybe there's a reason that this is an overwhelmingly male job, and maybe it has to do with sex differences in muscle mass, testosterone, and (intertwined) differences in willingness to take risk. Male risk-taking is a mating display -- it helps show male physical and emotional quality. Female risk-taking, on an evolutionary level, is mainly just stupid.
WELDER-RELATED: My time with the welders -- a special post for Crid. (From the Ironworkers' Local 443 picnic, where I went with Gregg for his Killshot movie research for Elmore Leonard and director John Madden.)