By Jacob Bourne
After being elected as Recording Secretary in June, Christine Austria-Lozoya will officially start her new role in July, gaining the distinction of being the first woman to hold the post at IBEW Local 11. A Journeyman Sound Installer since 2008, Austria-Lozoya first joined the union in 2004 and has most recently served as a Sound & Communications Organizer.
News@11: How did you first get started as an IBEW 11 member?
Christine Austria-Lozoya (CAL): My father is a member and signatory union electrical contractor. He’s the one who got me into the field. He had expressed that he wanted me to get into Sound & Communications, and so I did. At the time, my husband’s company unfortunately went bankrupt, and he became unemployed. He didn’t want to venture into the trade, so I said I would do it and I began the apprenticeship program.
Prior to that I was a stay-at-home housewife, but IBEW wasn’t my first experience with unions. When I was 16, I was with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), working at a market called Alpha Beta as a courtesy clerk for five years, so I knew what unions were about.
News @11: What aspects of your professional background and life experience made you want to take on a leadership role at the union?
CAL: First of all, just being a wife and mother. It takes strength to be a wife and mother, you have to take charge and multitask, you have to be disciplined and be a disciplinarian. So that pushed me to where I am, because I came into the union later in life, at 35 years old. I wasn’t in my 20s, where I might have been a bit shy due to my lack of experience in a male-dominated industry. I think if I had started at a younger age, I wouldn’t have pursued it with as much gusto.
I was encouraged by my mentors to be active in the union. I was nominated and elected as the Recording Secretary for our Sound & Communications unit, and from there I was asked to serve as a representative for our disciplinary board for the Apprentices. From there, I was asked to conduct interviews for our online applicants and then became an Organizer.
News@11: What does it mean for you to be the first woman to hold the position of Recording Secretary?
CAL: It’s an extreme honor because I’m female but I’m also in Sound & Communications. I’m not your typical Inside Wireman, so that’s also an honor to have been asked to run under another classification.
I would love to see more women being more active in trying to pursue these roles. I want to be part of that. I try to be a mentor to the younger generation. I’m not going to be in this industry forever, so you have to pay in forward, and I would like strong females who can hold their own in this industry and be able to make a difference. One way they could make a difference is to let other women know that they can pursue a career that is awesome as far as benefits, wages and just the skill set that they can acquire and take anywhere and provide for their families. It’s very easy to climb the ladder when you have a good attitude and you’re willing to help others.
News@11: What advice would you give to other women interested in taking on leadership roles?
CAL: Be more active, be more vocal. Know that you’re part of the union for other individuals, not just yourself. It’s not just about getting a title; it’s about being able to have a positive influence.
News@11: For those interested in getting into the electrical trade, what do you believe are the main reasons why they should join IBEW?
CAL: IBEW saved my life. My husband had no job and our house went into foreclosure. When I joined I was offered good wages, benefits — I had three small children that I was able to support and I took my house out of foreclosure. My kids had asthma and it helped provide their medical care. It can save someone’s life because in this organization, it really is a Brotherhood and a Sisterhood because we all have to take care of each other.
If you want the camaraderie and the skills that you obtain throughout this, joining IBEW is going to save your life, because no matter where you go, you will always be able to get a job and you will always be able to provide for yourself and your family.
Apart from my family, IBEW is my whole life.