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 # 467 in Burlingame,
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 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
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
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
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
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
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 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.