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
#469 in Phoenix, has a long and proud
history that goes back more than 100
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
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 trdes. 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
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 Union.
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
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 residential buildings.
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 now
leads the United Association forward into the 21st century.