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Women's History Month Profiles: Florida's Theresa King

Theresa King (left) and office manager Helen Parker (right) going over legislation affecting trades workers during the 2016 session.

This month, we are celebrating Women's History Month by honoring important working family activists and present-day organizers who are women and are fighting at the intersection of women's rights and workers' rights. Today, we look at Theresa King.

In September of last year, Theresa King was elected president of the Florida Building and Construction Trades, the first woman to ever be elected to the position. Yennifer Mateo, a field representative for the Volusia-Flagler Central Labor Council, interviewed King about her work in the trades, the struggles she faces in the work world as a woman and the importance of breaking down gender barriers.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Yennifer Mateo: At what point in your career did you decide to pursue a leadership position? What led to you making the decision to run for president of the Florida Building Trades?

Theresa King: Well, that’s a unique story itself. While I was an apprentice and then a journeyman, I started getting involved with the central labor council in my area. I did canvass walks, phone banking, just anything that I could to make a difference. My local union would send me to Tallahassee to lobby during the legislative session and they would have us lobbying on building trades issues. Every time someone would ask me to do something, either my local or with organizing, I did so passionately. To be an effective leader you must take on all kinds of roles, and I never hesitated to work on what I could in the fight. If you’re a good tradesman, man or woman, you do what you’re asked to do with the same passion as when you carry your tool bags. I’ve carried that mentality throughout my career as a tradesman and it was seen by others. When nominations for Florida Building Trades president began, I did not give it a second thought, but local leaders reached out and encouraged me to run. It was truly a shock. I doubted myself asking, “With all the building trades activists you know in the state of Florida, why me?” I was told that my resolve, dedication to my work for my local union and the passion I brought to my trade showed leaders from across the state that my heart was truly with the future of the building trades.

Yennifer Mateo: As a woman, did you face any difficulties or hardships because of your gender?

Theresa King: Absolutely. Working in a very male dominated profession, the same gender stereotypes of women are sadly too often echoed. I would hear that women are too “emotional” to negotiate or not “strong” enough to work with tools. Even when I was a general foreman and estimating projects it was difficult to get contractors to actually see that I was capable of so much more. It’s like they are afraid to step out and maybe admit that a woman can do as good, if not a better job, than a man can do in that position. You do face difficulties with that. When you do face those difficulties, the only thing that you can do is let your work speak for itself. My work speaks louder than other people's opinions do.

Read the full interview.

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