IBEW Local 424 Sister Robyn Schaapman was awarded the 2017 International Women’s Day Award by the Alberta Federation of Labour in May of this year. The award was introduced in 1990 to recognize a sister in the labour movement for her outstanding commitment and leadership in the trade union movement and community. This is the first time ever, that an IBEW member was awarded this great honour. We are so proud of you Sister!
Below is an excerpt from Sister Robyn’s nomination letter, put forward by Delaine Coleman (Local 424) on behalf of Local 424 Women’s Committee.
Sister Robyn Schaapman is a committed activist with a long history of union association. She first embraced union values when she became a letter carrier and a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. She was a CUPW member from 2001-2009 and performed the duties of Shop Steward 2007-2009. She continues to be involved with CUPW, participating in their yearly Women’s Committee Equinox.
In 2008 Robyn transitioned to a career in the trades, where she started her electrical apprenticeship. It was important to Robyn that she remain part of an organization that supported workers’ right to fair wages, a safe work environment and quality of life. She became a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 2008 and obtained her journeyman certification in 2013.
As a member of the IBEW Robyn has endeavoured to be an active participant. She has taken the Code of Excellence and Construction Organizing Member Education Training courses in order to enhance her ability to engage fellow members. She has been a member of the IBEW Political Action Committee since 2014 where she canvassed for community support for progressive candidates during the Provincial Election. She also acted as a media spokesperson for the Alberta Jobs Plan announcement in Dec 2016.
She is one of the original members of IBEW Local 424’s Women’s Committee, the Sisters of 424. The committee was formed in 2014 and Robyn remains a committee leader. The committee has set a mission to build solidarity among the Sisters of Local 424, support sisters on and off the worksite through mentorship and motivation and to strengthen the local through leadership and participation. In pursuit of this mission Robyn has been instrumental in organizing community outreach initiatives with the Edmonton Valley Zoo, Habitat for Humanity and Young Women in Trades and Technology (YWITT). Since the committee was formed, the Sisters of 424 have donated hundreds of hours of electrical work to the zoo’s Festival of Lights fundraiser, assisted with a lighting retrofit at the Habitat for Humanity shop facility and acted as mentors for the YWITT All Girls’s Trades Academy.
In 2015, Robyn was appointed to be the IBEW Local 424 representative for the Alberta Building Trades Build TogetHer Committee. This committee is working to increase representation of females in the building trades and is also examining the barriers to retention within these non-traditional occupations. As a member of this committee Robyn has attended Teachers Conventions where Build TogetHer members provided information on how to encourage students to work in the trades. She has been part of a group presentation at the Build Trades Conference and a participant in a joint promotional video developed by Women Building Futures, the Northwest Redwater Partnership and Build TogetHER promoting women in the trades.
In addition to her involvement within her local union, Robyn is also involved with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)-Edmonton Branch, where she is a member at large on the Executive Board. She has been a volunteer for the annual Person’s Day Breakfast. Sister Schaapman is a committed union activist who is continually working to develop her leadership skills and to promote union membership and participation. She is passionate about educating young women about employment opportunities in the construction trades and working towards enhanced retention. She would be an excellent choice for the AFL International Women’s Day 2017 Award.