The United Association Was
Founded More Than a Century Ago
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. Plumbers were by far the largest group of journeymen.
It was only 19 years after the end of the Civil War, in 1884, when delegates of various pipe-trades local met in Cincinnati and established the International Association of Journeyman Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Steamfitters and Steamfitters Helpers of the United States and Canada.
Just four years later, on October 11, 1889, this International Association banded together with various independent unions and what was left of the Knights of Labor, and formally founded the United Association as we know it today.
Eight years later they affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, and in 1912 incorporated the International Association of Steam, Hot Water and Power Pipe Fitters and Helpers of America, finally creating a national pipe-trades union that incorporated virtually all of the organized pipe-trade workers in North America.
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.
Since that time, the history of the United Association has been among the proudest in the labor movement, winning unparalleled wages, benefits and working conditions for its members, and contributing many of the truly great labor leaders -- not the least of which was long-time American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President George Meany.
Right: Longtime AFL-CIO President George Meany came from the ranks of the United Association.
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.
Today, under the leadership of newly-elected General President Martin Maddaloni, the United Association stands ready to move forward into the 21st century--and to win some of its greatest victories.
With a renewed emphasis on organization and education, President Maddaloni has launched a campaign to insure that every person doing pipe-trades work in the United States and Canada is represented by the United Association.
But while looking to an even greater future, every officer and members of the United Association knows with a deep and abiding understanding, that it is only possible because of the hard work, struggle, and unity of those who came before.