The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and
Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, the parent Union
of Local #3, has a long and
proud history that goes back more than 100 years.
Before and during the Civil War, plumbers and pipefitters were organized
in many major cities of the United States. The first strong,
long-lasting local Unions were established in the boom construction
decade, 1879-1889, when United States population growth accelerated.
Journeymen in the pipe trades in the 1880s worked in three basic crafts: plumbers, steamfitters and gasfitters.
The first truly successful national body, the United Association of
Journeymen Plumbers, Gas Fitters, Steam Fitters, and Steam Fitters'
Helpers of the United States and Canada, was officially founded on
October 11, 1889.
Gradually, former members of rival Unions joined the United Association.
The depression of 1893-1897 slowed the development of a stronger
organization. Membership in the United Association grew to 6,700 in
1893, but fell to 4,400 by 1897. Yet, by that year 151 local Unions were
listed on its rolls.
Starting in 1898, the construction industry entered a period of
expansion and prosperity that lasted until 1914. From 1898 to 1906 the
United Association quadrupled its membership.
During its first years, the United Association was essentially a
federation of local Unions, rather than a truly national Union of the
pipe trades. The major breakthrough toward a unified national
organization came at the 1902 national convention in Omaha, when
delegates approved a Nationalization Committee proposal establishing a
comprehensive system of sick, death and strike benefits.
As such reforms to strengthen the national organization were being made
in the early part of the century, however, some locals broke ranks to
form a rival Union. In August 1906, members of the secessionist Union
realized the futility of further rivalry and agreed to affiliate with
the United Association.
From 1898 to 1914, the United Association went through several phases of
a struggle with the International Association of Steam and Hot Water
Fitters and Helpers, a prolonged and sometimes bitter dispute both over
jurisdiction over a craft (steamfitting) and work assignments (plumbers
vs. steamfitters). The conflict affected other building trades when
walkouts by the rival steamfitting organizations, as a result of their
jurisdictional dispute, led to work stoppages by other crafts.
The strength of the United Association, and favorable rulings by the
American Federation of Labor, including the revocation of the
International Association's charter in 1912, ended this jurisdictional
battle, but other jurisdictional issues would continue to challenge the
New disputes arose over the construction of chemical plants and other
manufacturing and service establishments that required extensive piping
systems. Large volumes of newer types of pipefitting installation in the
shift from World War I wartime industries to peacetime construction
caused considerable difficulties. Jurisdictional problems also developed
with other national Unions, but the United Association retained
jurisdiction over important, growing areas of work like construction of
industrial plants, public utilities, petroleum facilities and
In the first half of the century, the United Association moved to
formalize apprenticeship training programs, including making a five-year
apprenticeship mandatory in 1921, and in 1938 holding that all
apprentices be members of the United Association and attend related
training classes. Its National Plumbing Apprenticeship Plan of 1936 was
the first set of standards governing apprenticeship to win approval of
the federal government.
In the Depression, United Association membership fell from its 1929 peak of 60,000 to 26,000 by 1933.
After several constitutional changes through the years, the 1946
convention changed the name of the organization to its present name: The
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and
Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.
Throughout World War II and after, the United Association made
considerable gains in membership and prestige. Between 1940 and 1954
membership surged from 60,000 to 240,000 with veterans entering the
skilled craftsmen field.
United Association member George Meany was elected in 1952 to be
president of the newly formed AFL-CIO and was to provide a shaping force
in the American labor movement until his death in 1980.
The New Frontier of President John F. Kennedy and Great Society of
President Lyndon Johnson were movements supported by the United
Association. With expanded training programs beginning in 1956, the UA
was able to meet the demands of accelerated construction activity in the
1960s. With the increased work the slogan, "There is no substitute for
UA skilled craftsmen" became widespread throughout the industry. By 1971
the UA was 320,000 strong.
General President William P. Hite led the UA into the 21st century with
innovative programs including Standards for Excellence & Safety,
Accelerated welding and the UA VIP program. In 2016 Mark McManus was
unanimously elected General President at the 39th General convention.
General President McManus is implementing programs that will take the UA
to new levels of growth and leadership in the construction industry.