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Meet Vicki O'Leary: Ironworker Working to End Site Harassment

Vicki O'Leary became an ironworker in 1985 at age 21 and after being offered a job by a Chicago apprenticeship coordinator, she embarked on a 20-year construction trade career. "I'm not going to pretend it was easy, because it wasn't," says O'Leary, who worked on projects from O'Hare International Airport to McCormick Place convention center, always seeking opportunities to learn. She took an ironworker job for the city of Chicago that led to a role as its environmental health and safety coordinator. "I realized I could make more of a career for myself, and I could make a difference for others," she says.

After earning degrees in labor studies and operational leadership, O'Leary was picked to be the international union's new general organizer for safety and diversity, enabling rollout of a program called "Be That One Guy" to fight jobsite sexual and other harassment that threatens safety and productivity by enlisting male ironworkers "not afraid to speak up and tell a bully to knock it off," she says. O'Leary pushed to include intervention best practices in union safety director training, which will expand to all new union local managers this year. "Vicki is a dynamic individual and once she sets her mind on things, people start taking notice," says Eric Dean, ironworkers general president, who recruited her to fill the position he created.


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