Local 449 History
The Pittsburgh Steamfitters Local 449 represents the American labor movement's struggle and progress in achieving a true partnership with management in sharing the nation's economic bounty. This 100-year effort has provided the industry with an accessible, multi-skilled work force from the earliest days of steam powered engines to today's most modern industrial and technical power systems.
Under the leadership of motivated executives and the constant upgrading of rank and file skills, Steamfitters often drove the industrial and technological engine of America with the multiple-skill categories required by the ever-expanding industry. That is a considerable responsibility for Steamfitters whose union membership requires an extensive apprenticeship and training program that assures competitiveness and a cost-effective labor force for management and contractors.
The American labor movement, of which the Steamfitters Pittsburgh Local 449 played a vital role, has achieved remarkable gains for all workers, but particularly for those who joined and supported the union. It is primarily to the credit of the principles of labor, its leadership, and the discipline and craftsmanship of the rank and file that Local 449 has achieved dynamic growth and security for its members.
This most important union has grown from 31 members 100 years ago to 2,700 skilled members today in a jurisdiction that includes all of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Venango, and Warren Counties, the cities of Arnold and New Kensington in Westmoreland County, and parts of Greene and Washington Counties.
The Pittsburgh Steamfitter's vast resource of multi-skilled men and women worked over 1.7 million man hours in 2001 and earned over $57 million in pay and benefits. If any worker doubts the influence and importance of the Steamfitters within the American labor movement, they should reflect upon the history of both and the well-being of all workers as the result of labor's vision and efforts.
Today, there are no 18-hour work days, no company towns, no child labor, and no unsafe working conditions. We now receive benefits that address personal and family needs; we receive pensions and amenities that improve the conditions of workers and assure the security of their families. Labor has energized government regulations and negotiated with management on issues that protect all workers, not just those who are unionized. These benefits did not exist 100 years ago and, in fact, many of them are recent arrivals in the labor-management partnership after years of struggle.
The reality of the labor movement is of dedicated men and women who insisted that their skills earned them a fair share of the economic pie; to be able to sustain their families without depending on handouts as was the case decades ago. Then, it was commonplace for union members to contribute food baskets, money, gasoline and other basics for out-of-work brother union members. Today, Steamfitters are considered equal partners in America's dynamic industrial, technical and professional growth. They share equally in America's economic bounty and sustain a keen-edged loyalty to one another borne from a legacy of loyalty.
Dignity is now a by-product of belonging to the Pittsburgh Steamfitters.
The pioneers of labor had the same motivation as today's workers, an honest day's pay for an honest day's work to provide for their families' welfare and security. This was achieved through their craftsmanship, their loyalty to fellow-workers and their union which became an extension of their families. Family and the union remain the motivation of all union members, an unbroken circle of loyalty.
Pittsburgh was the birthplace of Steamfitters Local 449, which was chartered in 1913 by the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Sprinkler Fitters (UA). An earlier charter had been granted in June 1901 (also by the United Association) and was designated "Local 218" with a membership of 31. A year later, that local grew to 100 members, and continued to grow significantly through the vision of its earliest leaders and those who followed. The exceptionally competitive pay and benefit packages now available to the Pittsburgh Steamfitters Local 449 is owed to these leaders who established the proud legacy of this union's achievements.
Before 1901, the local was affiliated with several national unions that were competing to organize the increasing skilled job categories within the Steamfitters' family. Beginning in 1880, the Pittsburgh local was at one time or another, affiliated with the Knights of Labor; the National Association; the United Association; and the International Association of Steam, Hot Water and Power Pipe Fitters and Helpers of America.
The dust finally settled in 1912 when the American Federation of Labor (AFL) ruled that only one international union would be recognized to represent members of the Pipe Fitting industry. Through high level, competitive and intense debate, the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Sprinkler Fitters (UA) convinced the majority of locals that they should represent all members of the Pipe Fitter locals.
The Pittsburgh Steamfitters local was granted its second United Association charter in 1913, was reclassified from Local 218 to Local 449, and remains with the UA to this day. All other Steamfitter locals that had been charter members of rival national affiliations were now chartered by the UA and recognized by the AFL.
Keeping Pace with America's Growth
There are few unions whose membership's diverse skills match or exceed those in the Pittsburgh Steamfitters Local 449. As America entered the industrial revolution and progressed through the technical and computer age, Steamfitters mastered every new form of power generation.
Working with steam, hot water systems and pipes, progressing through gas, electrical and computer systems, members mastered and the union represented them in such occupational fields as refrigeration, air conditioning, medical gas, boilers, process piping, pipe fabrication, hydraulics and all welding processes.
Heating systems which evolved from steam, gas and electric to the modern ventilating and air-condition systems of today are now driven by computers and installed and maintained by Steamfitters. They have evolved with the industry and are now proficient from energy management to industrial instrumentation.
Over the decades, Steamfitters were required to master new skills
in order to install and maintain each new discovery within these energy and power systems. It was a difficult and ongoing process which became better structured when the Steamfitters Local 449 established its highly effective apprenticeship and training program
Essentially, America's growth is measured and matched by the progressive skills of the Steamfitters.
The Early Years
In 1880, steam powered the nation's industrial engine followed by gas and electricity. Men learned to master the intricacies of each evolving power system through trial and error. As skills developed, these workers became the nucleus of organized local unions under
a succession of national organizations.
On August 4, 1900, a proposition was forwarded from a group of Pittsburgh Steamfitters to the General Executive Board of the United Association soliciting approval to establish a charter for the Steamfitters at Pittsburgh (See Footnote 1). On June 1901, the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Sprinklers (UA) granted a charter to the Pittsburgh Steamfitters and was
designated as Local 218. (See Footnote 2). While not the first step in organizing its workers, it was a major step in the Pittsburgh Steamfitters' journey toward unity and strength.
(In 1906, Local 218 surrendered its first charter with the United Association and changed its affiliation to the National Associationof Steam, Hot Water and Power Piping Fitters and Helpers. Reasons for this change are not available, but was probably due to the ongoing rivalry between the United Association and the National Association throughout the country, each vying for control of locals.)
However, when the AFL ruled at its 1912 convention that the United Association would be the only international union to represent members of the Pipe Fitting Industry, the Pittsburgh Steamfitters returned to the UA as Local 449 under its 1913 charter. All other internationals were order by the AFL to amalgamate with the United Association . (See Footnote 3)
This period marks the stability of the Pittsburgh Steamfitters. Consolidation of the Steamfitters locals within one national organization marked the beginning of effective national representation, and guaranteed unity and bargaining strength within the Steamfitters' family which would grow significantly over
In reports published in the United Association's Journal in 1913 and 1914, General President John R. Alpine's effort to consolidate the local unions under the United Association and to remove lingering friction's, visited many of the locals including Pittsburgh.He is credited with much of the success for this consolidation, and notes that his reception in Pittsburgh was conciliatory and supportive.
Alpine's presentations defined the very basic concept of unionism and brotherhood, of unity and strength, and of sharing in America's economic prosperity as respected and skilled partners of the power generating industry.
Such was the passion and vision of United Association's General President Alpine, an excellent role model for subsequent leaders and an effective representative of the Steamfitters' national importance within America's labor movement. His dedication and accomplishments are synonymous with the strength of today's
After the meeting and Alpine's presentation, the Pittsburgh local moved to join with the United Association which strengthened Alpine's international union and prompted this statement: "I predict that it will not be long before we are completely and thoroughly amalgamated into one great association representing the pipe-fitting industry in its entirety."
The Journal subsequently printed the following declaration which is as valid today as it was in 1913. "Trade unions have rescued women from the underground mine, the child from the factory, and encouraged the building of homes, more schools, parks and playgrounds. Trade unions have made the meeting room the debating club on economic and social questions; the church of humanity, in which all races and creeds meet on equal terms."
These historical reminders should be the basis for a proactive endorsement of the labor movement and should improve labor's image - particularly during unpopular labor disputes and strikes when they are often placed in a defensive position trying to win public support. Without organized labor, America's workforce would still lack the strength and unity which provides an equal
share of America's economic greatness.
The amalgamation in Pittsburgh was finally accomplished on May 13, 1913, when the Pittsburgh Steamfitters Local 449 was chartered by the United Association which established permanency for the local with one international union which continues today. (See Footnote 4)
1) Under proposal #13, the following Steamfitters applied for a charter to be located in Pittsburgh: Thomas Kane, Thomas Gray, Charles Mantz, C. H. Slack, George B. Hayworth, Thomas Flanagan, Ed Maginn, O.C. Edwards, John Dignam and John McCarthy.
2) It is from this time span, that we are able to identify some of the key leaders of Pittsburgh's Steamfitters local. C. H. Slack is listed in the September 1900 issue of the UA Journal as Local 218's first Secretary. He was replaced by Thomas Kane in October who was replaced by George B. Hayworth in November who remained in office until 1904.
E. A. Mangim, whose address was listed as 4th Avenue, Pittsburgh, was recorded as the first and only Business Agent in Local No. 218, and Charles McNeil and E. A. McGinn were the first representatives to a United Association national convention in Nebraska in August 1902.
3) Much of the credit for the emergence of the UA as the international union for the Steamfitters and Pittsburgh's new charter goes to its General President John R. Alpine, an eloquent speaker who dedicated to unity and, by all descriptions, was a most effective labor organizer whose vision and integrity set the standard for future leaders.
4) The first officers included William J. Conley, 2634 Linwood Avenue, as the first Recording Secretary, and Bernard Powers, 102 Mt. Vernon Avenue in West View, as the first Financial Secretary of Local 449.
In August 1913, the Journal listed E. A. Maginn as the first Business Agent and William Kinsella as President who, with John McDermott, represented Local 449 at the 18th General Convention of the United Association in Boston.