Sister Story: Jill Wheeler

October 28, 2023

Two and a half decades ago, Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.) member Jill Wheeler was working at a Wendy’s when a customer threw their French fries through the drive-thru window where she was stationed. Now, after 25 years as a union sheet metal worker, she’s a foreman looking forward to a well-earned retirement. Read more in her sister story:

What unique strengths do you bring to your trade?

I am a very organized person and tend to look ahead, which makes for an excellent ground person. I am also a perfectionist and will not leave work until it looks its best.

What do you love to do when you are not at work?


Goals in the future — any ambitions or changes to your career, growth or education?


What surprised you about your trade?

How easily it came to me.

What do you find frustrating about your job/trade?

The lack of women’s bathrooms.

How did you get into SMART?

I was working at Wendy’s and a customer threw her French fries back through the drive-thru window I was working at. I left that day ready to quit. I went to pick my son up at the sitters and started telling her about being ready to quit. She told me there was another parent wanting to recruit people to the union and asked if she could introduce me to him so I could get more information. I spoke with him and got all the information to apply but needed to think it over. I was telling my mom about it, and she said, “you should do it. You were always taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together.” I didn’t even realize I was doing that. So I applied, passed my tests on the first try and started the apprenticeship.

Tool you can’t live without?

Tape measure.

Best advice you got as an apprentice?

Pay attention to what your coworker is doing. Try to anticipate what they will need and have it ready for them.

What do you think about Tradeswomen Build Nations?

I’ve only had the opportunity to go to Minneapolis in 2019, but I’m going to DC this year and can’t wait! I absolutely love it! There’s an overwhelming sense of sisterhood and a feeling of being around so many people who understand what you go through. It’s a great opportunity to learn and take that back with you to hopefully make your union women stronger!

Are you active in trade-related activities such as career fairs, volunteer work or SMART Army events?

I participated in the SMART Army event at the 2019 Minneapolis Tradeswomen Build Nations conference.