As Business Manager of the Boston Plumbers Union, and a member for over thirty years, I have never known of a woman member that did not get paid what their male counterparts made.
We all went through an apprenticeship together, worked our way up through the business together, became duly licensed by the state together. All the way through apprenticeship and on to becoming a journeyman there was pay parity. Yes, it’s because we belong to a union.
Over those thirty plus years the ranks of women have continued to grow especially over the past ten years. Yes, the pay structure has been around in a male dominated industry for many years but as women have become more and more commonplace in the industry there was never any thought to pay women anything less than what the contract provided or what the men made.
At a recent meeting with some of the women of Local 12 we talked about many issues but the one issue that never came up is pay equity. I was compelled to write this because there is no media outlet that seems to want to let anyone know that parts of the labor movement is paying dividends for all working people.
Needless to say that the Building Trades can be a misunderstood entity at times, we have always tried our best to be sure that its equal pay for equal work. The reasoning being, that we all came into this together trained and moved up together. Pretty basic concept I think.
So on this years Equal Pay Day, for those that find this thing kind of important, not only do the Union Plumbers in the Boston area make the same pay so do all of our counterparts throughout the rest of the Boston Building Trades.
As Christmas 2018 closes in there are many stories of people helping out one another that you see in the media. Plumbers Local 12 has always been there to help organizations whenever we can and some are just special to us. St Mary’s Women and Infant center is one of them. The center, which has been in operation for over 20 years, helps, houses, educates, and protects women and children in their most dire times.
There is also a soft spot with us because as the old St. Margaret’s many of the men and woman around the metro Boston area were born there and that was the first place that many of us safely slept.
Over 2018 Business Agent Barry Keady has taken volunteer members up to Cushing Ave. and rectified some plumbing issues that have lingered there for almost twenty years. Now fixed, the facility has been able to use areas for various uses that they never were able to use before. Unfortunately there never seems to be an end for the social services that need to be rendered up there.
This year Local 12 made St. Marys the sole beneficiary of our annual toy drive. Hundreds of toys have been donated by the plumbers and apprentices and as an organization located here in Dorchester we wanted help out another neighborhood organization.
On Thursday December 13th, we were joined at the hall by Deirdre Houtmeyers and the leadership team of St. Marys as well as his Honor Mayor Martin Walsh. “It truly is our pleasure to help out these people in need, especially at Christmas” said Local 12 Business Manager Harry Brett. Mayor Walsh while speaking to the members at the union hall that day reminded everyone of the importance of always trying to help out those who are in need.
Plumbers Local 12 apprentices then loaded the Plumbers 911 van and dropped of the toys to the staff at the center. Although we do many things as well as support various causes throughout the year it is special to help an organization located so close to us that provides so much to people in need that come from all over.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Speaking from a scientific point of view, without water there can be no life. As plumbers, we play a special role in that equation. With all of the conservation regulations there are still great concerns that in the future there will be water shortages. It is our role to do what we can to slow that down here in Massachusetts.
In the 30 plus years that I have been in the business I have seen us go from, for instance, 3.5 gallon toilets to 1.6 gallons and even flushometers that only use about a pint of water. I believe that most of us also had concerns that the sewer infrastructure would need most of that additional water to move the sewage through the systems. Which in some places its true.
But more alarming is the real fact that some world cities are facing the possibility of running out of water. Capetown South Africa is most likely the one that is closest. It seems that at some point this summer the may shut the taps off to millions of people. Almost unthinkable but true.
At Local 12 we have been involved in many water reuse systems that have been installed in some large projects. In fact, there is one being installed at the Wynn Casino project in Everett as we speak. There are also working systems downtown where all of the water for the water closets and urinals as well as landscaping are provided by rain water reuse systems.
The plight of Capetown compelled me recently to attend a Massachusetts Plumbing Board meeting and bring up for discussion the use of the IAPMO UPC Code sections dealing with these issues. To my surprise the board had been working on the issues and put out their own draft regulations, that they have since adopted, on water reuse and rain water collection systems. They did a great job and should be commended for their foresight.
It may not be today but I believe that in the near future we will see these systems installed right down to the single-family home. More importantly the work should be done by the licensed plumber.
These regulations are well thought out and come at the right time. The plumbing industry has been there all along doing the right thing to protect our most precious resource. But as most of us still see more and more municipalities declaring water emergencies throughout the commonwealth all throughout the year.
If all of this conservation is going on why are there these apparent shortages? We have done our part as an industry but there are many issues with the aging infrastructure that distributes the water that we install. There are also issues with runoff as we continuously develop the area.
There is a great bill at the State House filed by Rep. Chris Walsh of Framingham that will mandate water reuse systems in housing projects that are over a certain amount. There are many of these projects out there and bills like this need to be taken seriously if we are going to try as an industry to make sure that future generations have the water they need.
We have responded as Plumbers in every way to protect and conserve our water but we need to continue in this direction. There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain that says,
“Whiskey is for drinking but water is for fighting!”
I wanted to send a personal note as the Business Manager of Plumbers Local 12. If you are receiving this you most likely know who we are – or maybe not. We are the premier membership organization for plumbers and apprentices who want to get the best out of their career. That means good wages, the best training, and paid health insurance as well as a real retirement plan.
Over the past few years we have been able to bring into our ranks hundreds of new members. And our contractors have really been helped by these new members by being able to take on more work. Even work in areas that that the union has not been into for some time.
Plumbing is your career and you should get the absolute most out of it. I am sure that many of you work for some good people but when it comes to benefits, real benefits, they can’t do we can for you and your family.
Health insurance, for instance, can be a struggle for families to afford. Why would you pay for it out of your paycheck when we build it right into the rate. The same with retirement benefits. To get a real retirement benefit is almost impossible; Local 12’s pension plan is over sixty years old and has paid out over millions of dollars to our retirees during that time.
When the best you can get is a three percent match to what you put in a 401K that comes out of your paycheck, the real question you have to ask yourself is “In my early sixties, can I afford to retire?” Can you? The plumbers’ union is equipped to help you get to that retirement and not actually out live whatever money you have saved. Just do the math yourself!
By working with our contractors, we have created our new residential division to concentrate on wood housing. Any kind of housing. Single family homes to six hundred unit developments. So far, it’s been a great success. It has provided me a way to bring in over a hundred new plumbers and apprentices that I may never been able to before.
Many, many plumbers and apprentices have tried to get in over the years and this division, with its paid health insurance and pension plan has been the vehicle to do it. This has opened our doors!
Yes, while it is a different rate, it’s also about the benefits. A wage and benefit package over fifty dollars an hour cannot be beat. Sure, some may be able to get some good cash but benefits are worth and cost money. If you are doing this work for a living, you know this is true.
As I stated earlier, we have taken in hundreds of new members over the past few years- and one thing I hear a lot is “This is nothing like what they told me about you”. I would ask you that if you have not believed anything I have said so far and you know someone that has joined Local 12, ask them. I’m confident that they will tell you that they are happy.
They will also tell you that they pay dues, yes dues. But when dues to our organization can get you and your family the best out of your career, it’s worth it! We all pay dues one way or the other. Church, gym, rod and gun club, whatever it is you pay it because you get something out of it. Just don’t let someone who doesn’t like unions or knows nothing about them tell you what unions do or not do. Stop by sometime and ask for yourself.
The future looks better than ever for our industry. We have worked very hard over the past few years to find ways to break down the barriers and myths that stop plumbers from seeking us out. Nothing make us happier to know that we have made a real positive change in the lives of people in our trade, as well as bringing another good worker to work for our contractors.
We have met so many great people over past few years and I wish we could have put more of you to work, but job opportunities are what drives that and as we grow and with your continued interest, there will hopefully be room for you.
In closing, I want to make one point and that is if you are a plumber in Massachusetts, you belong with us. That goes the same for contractors as well. A portable, well trained workforce that is at your fingertips is something that only union contractors can enjoy. Please enjoy the Holiday Season and make it a point in the new year to call and get the real information about how we can help you.
1240 Massachusetts Ave. Boston, MA : On Thursday June 15th Plumbers Local 12 welcomed what is most likely the biggest apprentice class that we have ever taken. Reflective of the growth of the commercial business as well as the residential division this has allowed us to create more opportunity to bring new members into the ranks of the Local.
This was a very special night in which these new members brought their families to share in the experience. The union hall that night had most likely over 200 people in attendance. Light refreshments were served.
The swearing in of these new apprentices was officiated by Local 12 President Bobby McCarthy and Business Manager Harry Brett. After the official ceremony the new members and their families were able to tour the Training Facility.
“You have been given a great opportunity here at Local 12 and I strongly encourage you to take full advantage of the instructors and the school over the next five years” said Business Manager Brett. “There is no other plumbing training like this anywhere in Massachusetts!”.
Local 12 has over sixty contractors that employ its members on any given day and being sure that they are able to employ the most highly trained plumbers and apprentices in the industry is key to every ones success. The Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association and Local 12 have always enjoyed a great working relationship.
The new residential division has really taken off. “Local 12 is really excited to be doing more of this work, for many of the plumbers and apprentices that do this, it’s the first time they have had access to health insurance and a pension plan that does not come out of their pay” said Harry Brett. “This is why the best of the industry is coming to Local 12”.
Plumbers Local 12’s training program has consistently enjoyed a retention rate of over 95% and has produced roughly 500 new journeyman and women just over the last 5 years. We are training the workforce of the future at Local 12.
We wish them all the best as they start their plumbing career!
On Friday May 5th 2017, Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 12 gathered at the Venezia Restaurant in Dorchester to celebrate the Graduation of the 2017 Apprentices. Over 200 friends and family attended the event.
This year’s graduating class had sixteen apprentices that passed all of the competencies that are required at the Local 12 Training Center. “These apprentices have exceeded all of the expectations that were required of them,” said Rick Carter, Director of Apprentice Training.
These apprentices completed over 1200 hours of related training that began as a night program but finished as part of the concentrated day school program. Hugh Kelleher, Executive Director of the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association, stated in his remarks, “All of the reports I have gotten from the contractors have been excellent in regards to what they see in this class coming out of the training center.”
Special Guests included United Association International Representative Dan Watts and General Agent of the Boston Building Trades, Brian Doherty. Doherty commented, “This class represents the very best in what apprenticeship means to the construction industry in Boston, we are the organization training the workers of the future.”
Hugh Kelleher was also recognized for his enthusiastic support of training over the years. He will be retiring at the end of 2017. He was presented a gift from Rick Carter and Harry Brett from Local 12 and Dan Watts from the U.A.
Business Manager Harry Brett summed up the night with his comments. Ranging from the apprentices’ personal commitment to the training program, given the fact that many have families to
provide for to also laying the solid groundwork for the future success of Plumbers Local 12 and the Contractors. “From my position, I have had the great pleasure of watching these men and women grow from first year apprentices to the journeymen and women that they are today. The future looks excellent with such members passionate not only about becoming the newest plumbers of the Local but real Trade Unionists as well”.
On Sunday morning May 25th, Plumbers Local 12 attended the Massachusetts AFL-CIO annual scholarship breakfast held at IBEW 103 in Dorchester, MA. On hand were many of the deserving recipients of the awards. These monetary awards come from the generosity of the working men and women of Local 12.
“It never gets old listening to the stories of the achievements of these students” remarked Local 12 Business Manager Harry Brett. “The dedication to not only their studies but also the civic and charitable, and athletic activities is truly amazing and I’m proud that we can give them a little help as they head off to college in the fall”
Plumbers Local 12, as part of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, was part of the morning festivities that saw almost Six Hundred Thousand dollars awarded to the children of the members of the affiliated locals of the state federation.
The children of the members of Plumbers Local 12 are headed to schools all over the country this fall. From Ivy league to Community College, we are so very proud of each and every one of them and their parents on a job well done.
For more information on the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Scholarship Program, click here.
As I sat in my office this afternoon in Dorchester I could hear fire truck after fire truck going by the office on Massachusetts Ave. Knowing that something was going on we found out there was a major fire at a project under construction in the 1900 block of Dorchester Ave.
Hearing that the fire had reached 6 alarms in a short time I could only think that I was in that building just over a week ago. Members of Plumbers Local 12 have been on that job for about a year and thankfully were not on the site today. The building was just about finished.
As I started to get pictures of the fire texted to me I thought about the smoke that I was looking at. I was thankful to see our friend Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn saying that it was a job for them fighting the fire from the outside of the building. As of 6:25 pm thankfully there has been no injuries reported
As the firefighters fought the blaze from the high ladders I also thought about all of the PVC that had been installed in the building. When that product burns it turns into cyanide gas. Under more perfect conditions if the sprinkler system was working in an occupied building the fire may have been contained to its original source area.
However in this case where the building is burning out of control with no sprinklers the firefighters/neighbors are getting some dose of hazardous material sent their way. Speaking with the leadership of the firefighters union we agree on the terrible toll that cancer has taken on their ranks.
In a state like Massachusetts we should not be looking to increase materials like PVC, in any way shape or form in building construction, not just because of the fact that the firefighters are exposed to the smoke, but to the chemical exposure to the plumbers and other tradesman that have to install these materials for a living.
It’s really too bad that the fire happened at this site today because it was another great plumbing job done by the E M Duggan Company and reflected the great workmanship of the men and women of Plumbers Local 12.
Small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the brave, the patient and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer. – Unknown
Recently in the United States the Small Business Administration celebrated Small Business Month. The plumbing and heating business is an industry where the entrepreneur spirit is alive and well. Here in the metropolitan Boston area we have a thriving community of great small businesses that are affiliated with Plumbers Local 12.
While some of our contractors today employ sometimes many more than 150 plumbers there are many that employ less than 10. This provides the backbone of an organization that is over 125 years old. Plumbers Local 12 will soon be hosting our own new business seminar to help fuel that great entrepreneurial spirit.
Uniform pay, benefit administration, concentrated training, and access to an extremely well-trained workforce by the union allow new contractors the ability to grow during those critical first years which in turn will help them become the future employers of hundreds of employees.
We salute the Small Businessmen and Women and their entrepreneurial drive that makes our industry great!