Electrical Apprentice, IBEW Local 353
Cara Brideau is an electrician and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 353. Beyond that, she’s a young woman exercising her civic power and using her voice as a proponent of change.
“We all have the power to enact change in our local union, or in municipal, provincial, or federal politics,” she says. “Our leaders need help in deciding the right path to take, and we as members of society have a voice and a duty to help them.”
Brideau made the decision to pursue electrical work in 2015. She’s currently on her way to completing her Certificate of Qualification, which will deem her a licensed electrician.
Having such a diverse collective of thoughts and contributors makes a project run smoother because we’re able to fill certain knowledge gaps.Cara Brideau
Becoming involved with her local union was a considerable factor in Brideau’s path to activism. Joining Local 353’s Women’s and NextGen Committees, she found herself in the company of diverse but like-minded individuals pushing for change, not only within their industry but within the communities they call home.
“These are my people,” says Brideau. “I’ve met a group of incredible young Brothers and Sisters whose views and desires align with my own.”
While these young workers may come from differing and unique paths of life, they all have the same goals. As a result, they’re pushing forward collectively by honouring each other’s individual strengths and empowering one another to facilitate progress. Together they’re involved in food drives, fundraising, community-building, and volunteering with political groups.
“Having such a diverse collective of thoughts and contributors makes a project run smoother because we’re able to fill certain knowledge gaps,” says Brideau.
Building on her union experience in the power of a collective, Brideau has embarked on an ambitious personal COVID project in the form of a podcast for young workers. Unify: A Young Worker’s Podcast was created to serve as a brain trust for NextGen members from across North America and has become a base for shared knowledge.
The idea sprouted from a visit to St. Louis, MO where Brideau was attending a conference on behalf of IBEW Local 353. “The idea is that each young worker attending takes their learnings home to contribute to their own local,” she explains. “However, since attendees of the conference make up such a small percentage of young IBEW members, I figured that a podcast could be a way to impact more people.”
Brideau wants her podcast to be a resource for young union workers who may be unaware of their local committees and the possibilities for betterment if they’re willing to get involved and put in the work.
As she puts it, “We can all benefit from sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other and it’s inspirational hearing about young members who are contributing to their IBEW local and broader community.”
The same collective mindset can only be beneficial when applied to the historically male-dominated skilled trades industry. Local 353 aims to instil diversity and inclusion with a collaborative spirit within its culture and its membership. “There’s a lot of problem-solving in our trade and inspiration can come from anywhere,” says Brideau.
The same simple concept should be embraced not only in the construction industry but the workforce as a whole. “When you have a more diverse workforce, whether that’s with women or other equity groups such as LGBTQ2+ and new Canadians, our workplaces are better off,” says Brideau.
Instead of playing into outdated stereotypes of how society has looked in the past, where marginalized groups often remain unheard and underutilized, Canadians should be looking forward to a paradigm shift. By embracing stereotypes being shattered and boundaries being pushed, everyone moves forward. A united front will always succeed. “In the union we’re all equal, and it’s important to have people pushing for change,” says Brideau.
IBEW Local 353 is proud to be a diverse and progressive union, supporting members with respect and opportunity. A strong union is one where all are represented, and a strong community is one where all voices are heard.