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 U.A. History - Southern California

The foundation of Local Union 250 was laid long before the United Association issued its charter on October 1, 1938. At the turn of the century there was only a small handful of steamfitters in the Los Angeles area. Unlike the large cities of the East and Midwest, the demand for the trade was limited due to the fact that the area was just beginning to expand and develop. The warmer climate offered less work within the jurisdiction of the steamfitter trade.

On January 1, 1892, the United Association established its presence in the greater Los Angeles area by the chartering of Local Union 78 - with jurisdiction in all branches of the piping industry. However, the future of the United Associations' success as a truly "national body" depended on the unification of the entire piping industry. In many of the major cities, the steamfitter locals of the International Association elected NOT to affiliate with the United Association. The jurisdictional claims of the International Association directly conflicted with that of the United Association. This conflict resulted in a continuous rivalry that not only stagnated the piping industry, but severely hindered the abilities of the American Federation of Labor and the Building Trades Department to operate effectively. By 1903, the tide was turning, and shifted in the direction of favoring the United Association.

Since its conception in 1889, the United Association has endeavored to represent the piping trades as a national body by organizing and chartering local unions. To the contrary, the International Association confined their group efforts for the advance­ment and the recognition of jurisdiction over the Steamfitters. The International Association did not concern themselves with the organization of new areas of rapid industrial growth, such as Southern California. During the years of conflict between the United Association and the International Association, the United Association continued with their efforts towards organization and successfully chartered several local unions in the area now referred to as District Council 16. Los Angeles was the first local, chartered in 1892, and was followed by San Diego, 1900; Riverside, 1902; Santa Barbara, 1902; Long Beach, 1904; Santa Monica, 1911; and Pomona, 1912.

In the year 1912, the long dispute between the United Association and the International Association came to an end. The American Federation of Labor voted to suspend the charter of the International Association and announced their decision to support and recognize the United Association as being the only legitimate union in the pipe trades. As a result of the action taken by the American Federation of Labor, the International Association lost the support of the Building Trades, and a majority of the locals did merge peacefully into the United Association. And although the merger brought together the two most dominant crafts in the industry - Steam­fitters and Plumbers, it did not resolve all jurisdictional disputes between these two crafts.

In 1924, at the United Association's 24th Convention, the delegates unanimously voted to form a National Jurisdiction Committee. This committee would be composed of three plumbers and three steamfitters appointed by the President of the United Association. The appointment of a committee such as this, made it possible to deal effectively and fairly with any serious jurisdictional conflicts without breaking up the organization. The two crafts reached an understanding on the issue of trade jurisdiction and the results of the newly appointed National Jurisdiction Committee more than likely influenced and encouraged the Steamfitter union members in the Los Angeles area to seriously begin to consider establishing a straight-line Steamfitter local.

In the year 1925, the Steamfitter members of Local Union 78, Los Angeles, California proposed a plan to segregate from the local. The proposal involved the appointment of two committees; one to appraise and to formulate a plan to divide the assets and funds of the local, the other to draft the guidelines to clearly define the jurisdiction between the Plumbers and Steamfitters. The recommendations of the proposal by both committees was approved by the membership and the resolution to segregate was voted on, and approved of, at a special meeting held on November 10, 1926. On November 27, 1926, the United Association issued a charter to straight-line Steamfitters Local Union 95. This charter was similar to that of Local 78, in that the jurisdiction of territory was basically considered the city, but not necessarily confined to the city limits.

With the advancement of technology together with the areas of growth in the industry, the future for the newly chartered Local 95 was promising. The members of the local believed that the interest of the trade would improve rapidly and that they would successfully organize the non-union element as the trade expanded. However, time did not allow for the development of the resources essential to having a well-established local union able to withstand severe economic pressures. In October of 1929, the stock market crashed, which marked the beginning of the "Great Depression". Unemployment continued to climb, creating among other problems, a wandering population seeking relief in the larger cities located in the warmer climates. Los Angeles alone had a daily influx of 1500 or more people desperately looking for the means to sustain themselves. Up until the Emergency Relief and the Construc­tion Act of 1932, government policies failed to even acknowledge any responsibility for the welfare of the victims of industrial unemployment. Overall, the United Association's membership fell from its 1929 peak of 60,000 to 26,000 by 1933.

As a result of the depression, the country was ready to support policies that immensely strengthened labor's ability to organize unions and to engage in collective bargaining. The passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933 was the beginning, followed by the Wagner Act and the Industrial Labor Relations Act of 1935. The passage of such legislation was all part of the "New Deal" policies of President Franklin Roosevelt. The New Deal policies were designed to stimulate production, protect the interest of labor, and promote public works. As a result, organized labor was revitalized and by the late 1930's, the membership of the United Association had reversed its downward trend. During this new era of growth and prosperity, additional local unions were chartered in the Los Angeles basin.

The United Association in a continued effort to promote and organize the piping industry, chartered additional local unions in the Los Angeles basin. This allowed the attention to be focused on new areas of development and still maintain a strong presence within the city limits. Los Angeles Steamfitter Local Union 95 had not fully recovered from the economic disaster of the depression era. Their ability to maintain themselves financially and expand was limited, resulting in a continued decline. Due to the declining position of Local Union 95, the United Association chartered Local Union 465 on August 7, 1937, giving them jurisdiction of work in industrial and general pipefitting for the Los Angeles area and its vicinity. The membership of Local 465 consisted of pipefitters, pipe welders and helpers, engaged in performing work in the oil fields, industrial manufacturing and processing plants. Later, Local Union 465's jurisdiction was extended to include parts of Orange County.

In some cases the jurisdictional territory of newly chartered local unions over­lapped with that of previously chartered locals, which of course caused conflict between the locals. The United Association was well aware of possible future conflicts between local unions over the jurisdiction of work, however, in the interest of promoting the piping industry and protecting U.A. work from rival trade unions, it became a matter of priority to charter United Association locals and then resolve jurisdictional disputes that arose.

Rapid growth by Local Union 465 in the general pipefitting industry was not left unchallenged by Local Union 95. In their struggle to maintain their position as the Building Trades local union having a legitimate claim in all areas of industrial pipefitting for the Los Angeles area, jurisdictional disputes between the two locals became a common occurrence. In light of the many conflicts between Local 465 and Local 95, the United Association in an effort to preserve the integrity of the piping industry, decided to resolve the situation by consolidating both locals into one.

On October I, 1938, the United Association combined the jurisdiction of Local 95 and Local 465 by chartering the Steam-Air Conditioning-Pipefitters Local Union 250, with jurisdiction in ALL air-conditioning, heating, boiler & burner work, pneumatic tube work, and heat regulation within the city of Los Angeles. Also included was the industrial pipe work for Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which included the Petro Chemical Fields in Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Prior to the issuance of Local 250's charter, the United Association chartered Refrigeration Local Union 508 on July 27, 1937, granting jurisdiction in Los Angeles County. The refrigeration work in Los Angeles County was unprotected, which prompted other trade unions, such as the Sheet & Metal, IBEW, Operating Engineers & Machinists, to organize this new field of industry and claim jurisdiction.

The issuance of Local Union 508's charter successfully prevented loss of U.A. jurisdiction in the developing refrigeration sector. By the late 1940's the United Association decided to merge Local 508 into Local 250. The members of the Refrig­eration Local Union 508 however did not comply with the United Associations directive and resisted all efforts to consolidate. In 1947 the General President revoked Local 508's charter and the members of that local then terminated their affiliation with the U.A. and joined the Teamsters-Union.

At this time, Local Union 250 having expanded took in the members of Local 599 under the direction of the United Association. The Local 599 charter was issued for the Fitters, Welders, and Helpers in the many shipyards during WWII with classification in the Metal Trades division. When the shipyards closed down at the end of World War II, many members had no affiliation. After the former members of Local 599 became members of Local 250 they were then given the opportunity to take an examination for either Pipefitter or Steamfitter in the Building Trades classification.

In 1950, by an agreement between the United Association and the Teamsters, the former members of Local 508 were returned to the United Association and Local 250. Upon their return the United Association issued the following directive on May 31, 1951:

"That the Refrigeration branch will be operated as a separate unit, and shall be entirely self-supporting. The membership records of the branch shall be deposited at the Refrigeration branch office. All payments in connection with dues and assessments shall be made at the branch only. All monies, dues, assessments, fines, etc. of the Refrigeration branch shall be deposited in the bank and none of this money shall be withdrawn except by checks signed by the Business Manager of Local 250 and the Business Manager of the branch. Elections shall be held for officers in the branch, and only those members in the branch shall be eligible to vote or run for office in the branch. The Business Manager of Local 250 shall appoint successful candidates as officers of the branch. No member of the Refrigeration branch is entitled to vote on any matter in Local 250 and no member of Local 250 whose card is not in the Refrigeration branch shall be eligible to vote in the branch."

As one can see, this then set the tone and basis by which the Refrigeration Branch of Local 250 exists. This directive was carried on until 1959. At this time certain changes in the law, namely "Labor Management Reporting & Disclosure Act" made this arrangement within the branch against the Law. It outlawed "dual Unionism"; that is separate sections of one Union having conditions, rules, regulations, other than that which the entire membership enjoys. Upon this change in the Law, the United Association revised its directive of 1951 and in August 1959, ruled that all elections be held for one Local Union; all could vote equally and all monies be transferred to one Local Union. This directive completely negated the 1951 directive and Local 250 and the Refrigeration Branch of 250 were by law and constitution, one Local Union.

The United Association issued a charter on November 12, 1969 for Local Union 456. This charter embraced Comfort Heating in Los Angeles City, all Air Conditioning and Refrigeration work in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Local 250 was not in agreement and consequently filed an appeal with the General Executive Board. The appeal initiated by Local 250 delayed the new Local 456 charter and after several hearings and litigation the charter was withdrawn by the General President. This action marked a new beginning for the Steam-Refrigeration-Air Conditioning-Pipefitters, Local Union 250.

During the years 2003 and 2004 the United Association restructured Local Union 250 again. The United Association combined the two divisions, steam and refrigeration, into one. Further, the United Association combined both the offices of Business Manager and Financial Secretary into one elected position.

On June 27, 2004, elections were held. The elected officers were installed by the United Association General President. This election also marked the first time Business Agents were appointed by the Business Manager.

Today Local Union 250 is the 7th largest local in the United Association. Many accomplishments beneficial to the entire membership were made possible through our active involvement within the U.A. organization at the local, state, and national levels.

The struggles of the past have given us the strength and perseverance to continue into the future as a front-runner in the piping industry.

Click to see historical memorabilia.
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