History of the UA and STEAMFITTERS & PLUMBERS L.U. 464

The Beginning

The sense of responsibility as a craftsman who performs an essential public service was certainly a driving force in the early stages of organization in the pipe trades, an organization that started long before the Civil War. However, the influence of the Knights of Labor in the early 1880's promoted and increased the level of organized activity among craftsman of all kinds across the country which led to an increase in the number of pipe trades local in many major cities. In 1884 the National Association of Plumbers, Steam Fitters & Gas Fitters formed, eventually renamed the International Association of Journeymen Plumbers, Steam Fitters and Gas Fitters (IAPSG).

While intermittent, all this organizing activity set precedents for the formation of the United Association of Journeyman Plumbers, Gas Fitters, Steam Fitters and Steam Fitters Helpers in October 1889. 

The Foundation

The founding convention of the United Association in Washington D.C., in 1889 was attended by 40 delegates representing 23 local unions. The delegates elected as President Patrick J. Quinlan, the leader of an independent plumbers' organization in Boston. Elected as secretary-treasurer was Richard A. O'Brien, who was then secretary-treasurer of Assembly No. 85 and leader of the Washington, D.C. plumber's local assembly.

Steam fitters' locals remained conspicuously absent from the group; only the steam fitters' union from Pittsburgh joined after the first convention-in May 1890. The only other steam fitters in the new organization were in locals dominated by plumbers. The steam fitters' locals had organized the separate International Association of Steam & Hot Water Fitters (IA) in 1888 & would come into increasing conflict with the UA throughout the remainder of the decade, especially as technological developments blurred the jurisdictional lines between steam fitting & other pipe trades.

The UA had 41 local unions and 2,850 members by its second convention in 1890, with several new charters pending. From that convention until its affiliation with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1897, the union gained members & made modest strides toward developing some broad national standards by which to guide & govern its locals.

The most notable event in the UA's first decade was the decision to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. This was not an overwhelmingly popular move; the delegates at the 1897 convention passed the resolution by only two votes.

A Union of Importance

From 1898 to 1914 the UA evolved into a solid international union which was able to provide substantial benefits to its members. Finally, the UA's future changed definitively when the AFL ordered the International Association of Steam & Hot Water Fitters to amalgamate with the UA in 1912, allowing the UA to absorb IA member locals. This move signaled the end of a long-running battle which had dominated the UA and many of its locals & had cost the organization a great deal.

Shortly after the UA's 1913 convention, at which General President Alpine declared the matter to be "practically disposed of," most of the IA steam fitters had been brought fully into the UA.

Gaining Steam

Steamfitters Local Union 464 was charted on April 3, 1915. It was a straight line Steamfitters local until December 1, 1998 when we were consolidated with Local Union 88 in Lincoln, NE. The name was changed to Steamfitters and Plumbers Local Union 464 at that time.

Editors Note: We are currently searching and in need of additional historical information for the Omaha/Lincoln/Council Bluffs area. If you have such information and would like to share it for this website and HQ records, please contact Brad Bird at bbird@lu464.org or call him at 402-333-5859.