The Plumbers Union Local #27 dates back to 1870, when we joined the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor.
On May 17, 1890, 90 craftsmen came together to create our union, officially joining the United Association and establishing Plumbers Local Union #27. Michael Joseph Counahan, Edward F. Welch & James J. Mckee were nominated and elected as our first officers.
During the early 1920’s the “American Plan” took hold in The United States (similar to today’s “Right to Work” Laws). Business owners took hold of this opportunity, spreading lies that it was un-American to join a union or for businesses to sign labor agreements, in order to break up the labor movement. This caused a Lockout for many of our brothers who chose to stick with the Local. For over 11-months many of our members were forced to walk the streets looking for work.
Establishing The 5-day Work Week
After years of strikes, lockouts and bargaining Plumbers Local Union #27 established the 5-day work week for members on Monday, July 1, 1929, with a pay-rate of $33 per week.
By the winter of 1931, unemployment was rampant throughout membership. Only 20% of members were working. With Plumbers Local Union #27 on the verge of collapse, then Business Representative, Brother Charles J. Lawrence and Local #27 leadership determined that the only way the union would survive was by uniting. On Tuesday February 3, 1931 members from across the Pittsburgh Region came together and voted to assess employed members a $2.00 fee per working day in order to establish an unemployment fund that lasted throughout the Great Depression, preventing many members and their families from starving during this bleak time in our nation’s history.
This year marked a period of reorganization. During the Great Depression, many members left the Local, and on April 19, 1938 a second Business Representative, John F. Counahan, was elected in order to help manage and grow our numbers.
Establishing a Pension Fund
A Pension Fund for eligible retired members of Local Union #27 was established through collective bargaining between Plumbers LU #27 and the Plumbing Contractors Association of Pittsburgh & Vincinity, Inc. , becoming effective on June 1, 1956.
As residential and small commercial contractors continued to grow throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s more and more workers were entering into contracts without union ties. Realizing the unfair working conditions that were being established and the lack of training these workers had, Plumbers Local Union #27 appointed brother Leo Bigley as the first full-time Organizer, in order to help workers continue to unionize. This was Brother Leo Bigley’s first appointed position of many.
In 2013, the United Association made the decision to consolidate the territories of Pittsburgh Plumbers Local #27 and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local #47, expanding Plumbers Local #27 to 15-counties across Western Pennsylvania.
On May 17, 2015, Plumbers Local Union #27 celebrated our 125th Anniversary. Our fight for workers rights has spanned over a century, and our membership has held strong. As we continue strong throughout the Western Pennsylvania region, we continue to fight for fair working conditions & good wages, and we continue to look into the future.