News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry • July 2016 www.massplumbers.com
“We think that we’re at the beginning of something that will really open doors.”
- Harry Brett, Local 12 business manager, on new residential division
Helping to Make Housing Affordable – Local’s New Residential Division Makes Strong First Impression
RIDING A WAVE OF ROBUST GROWTH, the Boston area has an urgent need for additional housing — particularly affordable housing. In the city of Boston alone, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has called for building 53,000 more units, including subsidized moderate- and low-income housing, by 2030. Local 12 and the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association (GBPCA) want to be part of the solution. To fill the need, developers are building many midrise wood frame apartment buildings throughout the region. AvalonBay, for example, is developing a 400unit project in Quincy. It includes five buildings, each five stories tall, with studio as well as one- and twobedroom apartments for rent. Thanks to the creation of a new residential division, Local 12 plumbers are on the job at Avalon Quincy working for GBPCA contractor, Patriot Plumbing. Because it represents a different kind of construction work for Local 12 and required negotiating a reduced rate along with hiring a new team of plumbers, the project presented some risks for the union, the plumbers that joined the crew, Patriot Plumbing, and the owner, AvalonBay. “We all took a chance together,” says Paul Lyons, Patriot’s president. So, after about a year, how is it going? “We cut the labor in half, and we’re a month ahead of schedule,” Lyons says. “That’s the kind of crew we have. They’re killing it.” According to Harry Brett, Local 12’s business manager, the union has been trying to develop a residenContinued on page 5
Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association 978-777-8764 www.GreaterBostonPCA.com
Protecting Consumers and Licensees – Spotlight on the Mass. Plumbing Board THERE IS A CLASSIC POSTER FROM THE 1930S that proclaims, “The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation.” As Wayne Thomas sees it, the role of the Mass. Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters is to protect Massachusetts’ consumers from all things related to plumbing. Among other important considerations, the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s citizens are at stake. But, its executive director says, the Board also provides protection for licensees. It monitors unlicensed practice, for example. It’s a delicate balancing act. The Board stands at the juncture between the public and the plumbers who keep the water flowing in the state. The Massachusetts Plumbing Code serves as the Board’s platform on which it balances. Its regulations and state laws light the way for licensees and provide a uniform path for compliance. The code helps insure the safety and integrity of the state’s plumbing infrastructure all the way to the consumers who rely on it. The Board spends a lot of time focused on the code — especially lately as it is in the middle of a major overhaul, the first in 11 years. Rewriting the Code
United Association Plumbers and Gasfitters Boston Local 12 617-288-6200 www.PlumbersAndGasfittersLocal12.org
“This is a pretty big rewrite,” Thomas says of the code’s line-by-line parsing. “We’re tackling some important issues.” The process by which the code is dissected, evaluated, modified, and re-codified into law offers a fascinating peek into the Commonwealth’s inner workings and its systems of checks and balances. The 400-unit Avalon Quincy is under construction.
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George Donahue Trades in His Shoes IT'S A CLICHE TO SAY THAT THERE ARE BIG SHOES TO FILL whenever someone leaves a position. In George Donahue’s case, however, he has literally left some enormous shoes to fill. At an imposing six feet, seven inches, Donahue typically towers over everyone else in a room (except a basketball court — more on that later). For the past 15 years, he’s been towering over others at job sites, planning board meetings, union events, and more as a business agent for Plumbers Local 12. Donahue retired in late 2015, and Jim Vaughan is now filling his shoes. (See article on page 7). Like many in the industry, Donahue became a plumber largely by chance. There were, however, some indications of the path he would pursue. His grandfather worked for the Boston Water and Sewer department. And before his father was a police officer, he had done some plumbing work. But wielding a wrench was not part of Donahue’s plan when he headed off to Maine for college. Nor was it part of the plan when he took a job in South Boston after returning home. As fate would have it, Local 12 signatory and GBPCA contractor William M. Collins Company was located across the street from Donahue’s employer. After getting to know the people there, he applied and was hired as a truck driver at Collins and hoped to become a plumbing apprentice for the shop. In the mid-1970s, however, the economy tanked, and Donahue was out of a job. Collins’ owner Bill Strickland called around on Donahue’s behalf and got him an apprentice
position at Bay State York working under John Shine. That’s where he found a career that he loved. Donahue recently attended a retirement party for Dick Fish, who used to work at Bay State York and whose father owned the company. “I thanked Dick for giving me all these years in the business,” he said. At a recent industry event, Donahue also expressed his gratitude to Nancy Shine, president of J.F. Shine Mechanical and the wife of the late John Shine. “It was wonderful people like that who gave me a great boost in my career,” adds Donahue.
He started doing mostly housing construction including HUD projects. When he moved to J.C. Cannistraro, Donahue pivoted more to hospital and other medical facility projects. At J.C. Higgins, he became a foreman under John O’Leary. “I was lucky to work at different companies and to learn many skills,” Donahue says. “It helped me become a more well-rounded plumber.” At the same time his career was taking off, Donahue got involved with Local 12. He served a stint on the social committee, was the union’s sergeant-at-arms, and won an executive board position. In 1994, he waged his first campaign for an officer’s position by running for business manager against a more seasoned
Harvey Fleitman. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” says Donahue who was a relative neophyte when he tossed his hat into the ring. “Needless to say, I lost.” But his gumption proved to be valuable. He was out of work at the time, but the day following his election defeat, he got a call from E.M. Duggan offering him a job. They took note of his courage to run for office and reached out to him. In 2000, Donahue ran again, that time for Local 12’s business George Donahue still has the trophy he reagent position, ceived in 1967 when he was voted CYO and won. He King of the Ball. notes that with its long and unconventhe typical audience profile, he tional hours, the job can often be seen at concerts for has often been chalpunk bands such as Rancid and lenging, but extremely the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. rewarding. “Every Citing Harry Brett’s able guidtime we won a job ance as business manager, Donfor union contracahue says that Local 12 is in tors, it was a vicgreat hands. Brett and Donahue tory,” Donahue noted. began their terms as business Among the victories he helped seagents at the same time. He also cure was the Natick Mall expansays that the contractors who sion. It was originally planned as work with Local 12 are great an open-shop project, but after a partners and that the positive resuccessful campaign, switched to lationship between labor and 100% union. management gives him much Outside of work, basketball hope for the future. has long been a passion for DonAs for his retirement, Donahue ahue. He played in high school says that he’s looking forward to and got a partial basketball colspending more time with his two lege scholarship. Among his sons and their families, which inclaims to fame, Donahue was cludes two grandchildren. There voted the CYO King of the Ball will be plenty more concerts to in 1967 — and he still has the attend. And he says he and his trophy to prove it. He enjoyed wife plan to travel and have fun. coaching CYO roundball teams “We remember the hamburger for many years and eventually became the commissioner of a CYO days. Now, we’re looking forleague. The coaching, he believes, ward to some prime rib days.” It sounds like Donahue may have to helped him develop the leadertrade in his work shoes for some ship skills that he brought to his more comfortable footwear. work at Local 12. Donahue is also an avid music fan. While he may not exactly fit
MY PATH TO LOCAL 12 There are as many stories about why and how people become plumbers and join Local 12 as there are members. As a recurring feature in The Pipeline, we will tell some of those stories by speaking with apprentices at the Local’s Training Center and sharing their journeys. In this issue, we begin with Dominique Cave and Ryan Washington.
Working for American Plumbing and Heating
Working for J.C. Higgins
“IT WAS REALLY A WHIM,” says Dominique Cave when asked what led her to the plumbing trade and Local 12. After graduating from high school, she went to college to study engineering. That didn’t interest her, so she switched her major to become a paralegal. At the same time, she got a job in retail. Cave wasn’t enjoying school and knew that she didn't want to work in retail forever, so she began searching for a different career. A close family friend, who is a sprinklerfitter, told Cave about the pipe trades. After exploring the industry, she decided to pursue plumbing. “It’s not so specialized, and I thought it would give me more opportunities,” says Cave. She didn’t have much experience prior to joining Local 12. Cave says, “It’s more of a guy thing, so I stayed away from [plumbing] when I was younger.” As a sprinklerfitter and a woman, her friend served as a role model and inspiration. When asked whether she perceives any gender issues now that she’s in the industry, she replied, “Really I don’t see any challenges for me as a woman in plumbing. I am six feet tall. That kind of changes the way guys on the job see me. I’m usually the one who ends up doing the heavy work,” she adds with a laugh. As for choosing Local 12, Cave says that she’s seen first-hand the difference that unions can make. Her dad is a member of International Union of Operating Engi-
neers Local 4, and her friend is a member of Sprinklerfitters Local 550 “It’s the way to go,” she notes. Cave has seen the other side as well. Her friend’s brother is a non-union plumber. “He doesn’t have any healthcare benefits and doesn’t have a pension,” she says, as she ticks off some of the reasons she applied to Local 12. While retirement is decades away for the single 20-year-old, it’s something she still thinks about. “For me, it’s great not to have to worry about that part of my life. Knowing that if I have children someday, we would all be set. That’s great. It makes me feel like I am going to be OK.” Because she started her apprenticeship the first year that Local 12’s Training Center switched to a day school program, she had never experienced night school. “I go home exhausted after a full day of school,” Cave says. “I can only imagine what it must have felt like to sit in a classroom after putting in a day’s work.”
AN ARMY VETERAN WHO HAS BEEN DEPLOYED TO AFGHANISTAN, Ryan Washington has taken a different path to Local 12 than Dominique Cave. But some of the things that drew him to the industry are the same. He also had a close friend who steered him to plumbing and the union. Washington says that he’s always been interested in mechanical things and working with his hands. He went to vocational school and took machine shop, but discovered that there weren't many opportunities in the tool and die field. He was a letter carrier for awhile, but says it wasn’t for him. He joined the army to serve his country. After his last deployment, Washington worked with the Helmets to Hardhats organization to explore careers in the building trades. A childhood buddy with whom he is still close is a Local 12 member. His friend loves working as a plumber and told Washington that the union was taking applications.
Currently, Cave is working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on a new research lab at its “Building of the Future.” She has been installing hangars for pipes, doing soldering, fireproofing,
Armed with his Helmets to Hardhats profile, he applied and has never looked back. When he first began, Washington says that it was a bit rough. He is married and has two preschoolers. The training center hadn’t switched to the day school program yet, and night school was tough to accommodate with his young family. The day school, however, allows him to spend more time at home.
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Part of what appeals to him as a plumber are the challenges and
the sense of accomplishment. “I can walk away from a building and know that I helped put the pipes in there,” Washington says. “My kids are at an age where they are amazed by everything I do. When we drive through the city, I’ll show them a place where I’ve worked, and their eyes light up. It’s a cool feeling.” As for Local 12, he says it’s the camaraderie that means the most to him. “The sense of brotherhood at the union is similar to being in the military,” notes Washington. “It feels like you are part of something bigger. You’re part of a community and an elite group.” He is also keenly aware of the Local’s great benefits. He sees other people struggling to pay for sub-standard health care and scraping to get by paycheck to paycheck. Washington has friends who are non-union plumbers. While they have to pay — sometimes dearly — to go to school, he is grateful for the free training he gets at Local 12. “You can’t really put a price on knowing that someday, all of Continued on page 8
E.M. Duggan: Still Going Strong after 125 Years IT’S RARE FOR ANY COMPANY TO ENDURE FOR 125 YEARS, let alone one in the construction industry. It’s rarer still for a company of such longevity to continue to prosper and remain on the cutting edge. And it's extraordinarily rare for a company to grow and evolve into an industry leader while remaining family-owned and -operated. Yet, E.M. Duggan has accomplished all that and more. The Local 12 signatory contractor and Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association member has not only survived two world wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession; E.M. Duggan is thriving as one of the region’s largest and most respected mechanical contractors. The secret to its longstanding success? “We surround ourselves with talented people,” says Len Monfredo, executive VP representing the fifth generation of family ownership. Among those he cites are Vin Petroni, Rick Dorci, Kevin Walsh, Steve Hilliger, Tom Bopp, Mike Gillis, Kerry McLean, Rick Armistead, and the company’s project managers, coordinators, and the union men and women in the field. “And we let them do their jobs.” All total, there are over 350 employees. It’s a far cry from the company’s humble beginnings in 1891 when Edward M. Duggan opened a small shop in downtown Boston and offered plumb-
ing services to the city’s residences and businesses. Among the company’s recent major projects are the Millennium Tower at 1 Franklin Place in Downtown Crossing, the new headquarters for Partners HealthCare at Assembly Square in Somerville, the Integrated Sciences Complex at UMass Boston, and the hotels, Aloft and Element, that recently opened in South Boston near the convention center. One of the reasons why Duggan is able to tackle such largescale projects is its hallmark pre-fabrication capability. “A lot of contractors talk about pre-fabrication like it’s something new,” says Harry Brett, business manager for Local 12. “But E.M. Duggan has been doing it for decades.” According to Monfredo, the practice dates back to the early 1960s when Jim Murray, who worked 46 years for the company, helped pioneer the concept. With the 2013 addition of a second shop, Duggan now has a total of more than 100,000 square feet devoted to pre-fab. Another reason why the company has been able to grow to a position of prominence: its affiliation with Local 12. With the union’s ready pool of highly qualified and skilled plumbers, Duggan has the resources to pursue and handle projects in a variety of specialties — regardless of the size. “Our relationship with Local 12 is fantastic,” Monfredo says.
One of E.M. Duggan’s cavernous pre-fab shops.
Representing four generations. Len Monfredo (left), executive VP, and Vin Petroni, president, stand in front of an archival photo of company founder Edward M. Duggan and his son, Edward M. Duggan II.
To mark its 125th anniversary, the company invited its employees and their guests to the annual holiday party and screened a commemorative video. The presentation featured employees who have been with E.M. Duggan for years, past presidents, general contractors with which it has worked, and others sharing their stories and ofA vintage E.M. Duggan photo. The company fering congratulawas among the first to use pre-fabrication. tions. In the spring, of their facility,” Monfredo exthe company held a second party, plains. “We’ll build it. Then we’ll geared more to clients, developers, vendors, and others in the in- service the systems and equipment through their life cycles.” dustry, at the JFK Library. It shared a second video it proAnother thing that hasn’t duced for the occasion. Duggan changed is the company’s family also celebrated its anniversary focus. It goes beyond the leadermilestone with the general public ship team that can trace its lineage by developing and broadcasting back to the founder. “There’s a TV and radio ads. real family atmosphere at E.M. While much has changed in 125 years, some things remain the same. In 2014, the Cantonbased company returned to its roots by opening a downtown Boston satellite office and expanding its service division. The service team handles residential as well as commercial work. “We want to have clients for the life
Duggan,” says Tim Fandel, business agent with Local 12. He adds that it is one of the reasons why employees enjoy working there. With all that it has going for it, Duggan is poised for another 125 years of success. PAGE 4
Patriot Plumbing Sets the Pace at Residential Project Continued from page 1 tial division for many years. With a building boom in full swing, the time was right to make it happen. “After a lot of number-crunching, we’re able to work with contractors and take a shot at this kind of work.” Brett explains that the Local and its signatory contractors previously wouldn’t have been asked to participate in large, wood frame projects such as Avalon. In order to make the residential division concept work and to be competitive in the specialized market, the union had to establish a lower scheduled pay rate than its standard commercial rate. The union recruited and carefully vetted about 25 plumbers for the new division. The crewmembers have plenty of field experience doing residential work. “That's what they do for a
living,” Brett says. “They enjoy it, and they’re good at it.” And how. Lead foreman Rick MacKinnon, who has over four decades in the field, says he’s never worked with such a talented, hardworking, focused team of plumbers. But don’t just take his word for it. When Steve Mattis, a Quincy plumbing inspector, reviewed the crew’s work on the first building, he was impressed with the quality. “[Mattis] stated that he had never gone to a building with 68 apartments and seen a pressure test on all units at the same time,” says Paul Feeney, VP at Patriot. “Everything was flawless. It surpassed anything he’d ever seen for similar projects.” The inspector sang the praises of the Patriot crew to everyone, including the shop’s outside superintendent, Ken Noyles. “He just couldn't have been more complimentary,” says Noyles.
MacKinnon says that his crew is six weeks ahead of every other subcontractor on the job. With all of the rough plumbing complete and signed off by the inspector in the first building, the Patriot team is hard at work on the project’s second building. The other trades are still in the first building. Even more impressive, Local 12’s 17-person crew is about half the size of a typical plumbing crew on a comparable job. It is no coincidence that Patriot is the only union sub-contractor on the Avalon project. “We have highly qualified workers,” explains Feeney. “If you go to open shop [non-union] contractors, they are getting day labor workers off the street. It’s a lot harder to run a job with unskilled workers. It’s also less safe.” Patriot’s success at Avalon is catching plenty of attention in the industry. While there may have been some initial skepticism, developers and general contractors now see that not only can union plumbers do residential work, they do it with a level of quality that far exceeds open shops — and they complete the work much more quickly. That’s a value proposition that can’t be beat. Lyons says other general contractors have been pursuing Patriot about residential projects in East Boston, Dorchester, and elsewhere. “I wish we had the residential division program years ago.” And Brett says that other
Lead Foreman Rick MacKinnon (R) at Avalon Quincy worksite with plumber Kyle Araujo.
GBPCA contractors, including E.M. Duggan and P.J. Dionne, are bidding on residential work. In order to handle the workload, Local 12 would have to ramp up its new residential division. It is up to the challenge and has a pool of candidates in the pipeline. Joining the union holds great appeal for plumbers. As Local 12 members, they get a comprehensive benefits package in addition to a decent wage. “Many of them are getting benefits for the first time in their careers,” Brett notes. “They’re getting a real pension and full health care coverage now, for example.” He adds that the Local has set up a pathway for its residential plumbers to move to the commercial division if they wish. The union offers them classes at its training center. Continued on page 7
Patriot Plumbing’s crew at Avalon Quincy. Paul Lyons, the company’s president, is third from the right in the front. PAGE 5
Spotlight on the Commonwealth’s Plumbing Board Continued from page 1 A core committee that includes Thomas, Joe Peluso, Thomas’ predecessor and current Board consultant, and Charles Kilb, the Board’s attorney, started reviewing the code in late 2014. As their schedules allow, they have been spending about five hours at a time picking through each item and considering suggested revisions. (On an ongoing basis, inspectors, licensees, others in the industry, and the general public can propose code modifications by using a form on the Board's mass.gov web site.) Once the committee completes its initial pass of a section of the code, it submits the suggested revisions to the board that oversees the Plumbing Board. The board members develop their suggested changes, vote on them, and approve a draft. Paul Kennedy chairs the board, which includes appointed licensees and public members. Kennedy is also president of P.J. Kennedy and Sons. His shop is a member of the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association and a Local 12 signatory contractor. The board then sends the draft to the Building Code Coordinating Council, which oversees all state agency codes and checks for overlaps in regulations. For example, the plumbing code intersects with the Department of Public Health code that sets minimum and maximum temperatures for water. The BCCC resolves any overlaps, meets with the Plumbing Board, makes its own suggestions, and votes to approve its draft of the code. The Governor’s office takes the next stab at the code. Once it passes muster there, the Board posts the document online for public review and schedules a public hearing. People can weigh in to identify mistakes such as typos and suggest other changes. Thomas’ committee reconvenes to consider the public’s input, re-
vise the code, and resubmit it to the Board members for a final vote. The Board resubmits the draft to the Governor’s office for final approval. Finally, the Governor signs it, thereby making it official regulation. Whew! “It sounds like a long, involved process,” Thomas says. ”And it can be sometimes. But it can also go quickly.” The goal is to have a full rewrite done by the end of 2016. He hopes to have everything approved by the middle of 2017. Among the issues being considered, the Board is planning to address some inconsistencies in the code. For instance, there are fixture requirements for certain facility categories such as stadiums. Currently, large pro stadiums such
as Gillette are grouped together with high school stadiums, thereby placing unnecessary regulatory burdens on the smaller facilities. The Board also wants to make the code user-friendlier. It wants to take water temperature regulations, which are now scattered throughout the code, and consolidate them into one chart, for example. Other items being considered include dedicated acid waste systems as well as new regulations for drain sizes and water pipe sizes. For example, Thomas compared toilets from the 1990s to the toilets of today that use as little as 1.28 gallons of water per flush. With less flow, pipes don’t have to be as large.
28,000 Plumbers and Gasfitters
In addition to overseeing and enforcing the code, the Board manages the licenses for all of the state’s plumbers and gasfitters. It issues two-year licenses. Rather than using a staggered system, all licensees must renew at the same time every two years, which falls in 2016 for the current cycle. The Board sent about 28,000 renewal forms earlier this year and delivered the licenses in May. “It’s a huge undertaking,” says Thomas. “But at least with a twoyear system, when it’s done, it’s done.” As part of a larger state effort that began in 2015, plumbers can use a new E-licensing program and renew online. Thomas says that it’s a simple process, but like any change, it takes some getting used to. He plans to get the word out and hopes that many more licensees will go electronic for the next renewal cycle in 2018.
Wayne Thomas, the state’s plumber-in-chief “WHEN I GOT INTO THE INDUSTRY, my thought was that I wanted to stay as far away from the state’s Plumbing Board as possible,” says Wayne Thomas. “I thought if I heard from them, it meant I had done something wrong.” Now that he’s the Board’s executive director, Thomas is hoping that the antiquated misconception has gone down the drain. He wants licensees to know that the Board is there to help, not hinder them. To that end, Thomas engages in lots of outreach to regularly communicate with the state’s plumbers. “We want them to realize that we’re regular people.” In fact, like most of the Board’s members, Thomas himself is a licensed plumber. He says that he and the Board understand plumbers’ needs and concerns. When he graduated from high school in the 1970s, Thomas was
trying to decide between college and working for Deacon Plumbing and Heating, his stepfather’s small service shop in Stoughton, Mass. His step-dad suggested that he give plumbing a shot by working with him for a year to see if he liked it. “I tried it and never left,” Thomas says. He got his Journeyman’s license in 1977 and his Master’s in 1978. When Thomas’ stepfather took ill in 1979, he was thrust into taking over the shop. He learned the business side of the industry on the job. In the mid1980s, his wife came in to help. In 2009, Thomas took the opportunity to work at the Plumbing Board under then executive director, Joe Peluso. “Going from private business to state government is a huge adjustment,” he says. “But I enjoy it.” Thomas’ wife continues to handle the dispatching at Deacon with a small crew.
He says that he learned a lot from Peluso. Thomas took over the executive director position when Peluso semi retired in 2013. The two still work together with Peluso serving as a part-time consultant at the Board. Under Thomas’ leadership, the Board has introduced some sigContinued on page 7 PAGE 6
Local 12 Business Agent Jim Stiffing the working stiff This editorial by Kevin Cullen apaway all the legal mumbo jumbo, Vaughan Is on a Mission peared in The Boston Globe on May 16, 2016.
“IN THE 29 YEARS I'VE BEEN WITH LOCAL 12, IT'S BEEN GREAT TO ME,” says Jim Vaughan, Plumbers Local 12 business agent. He took over the position vacated by George Donahue, who retired after serving for 15 years. “Now, I want to help get the word out and let people know how good this place is.” Vaughan says that organizing and education are a big part of his new role. He believes that many non-union plumbers don’t take the time to learn more about the Local and fall prey to misconceptions and half-truths. “Being a plumber is hard work. It’s very physical and requires a lot of skill,” Vaughan notes. “We deserve good pay and good benefits. That’s what Local 12 is about.” Vaughan’s own path to Local 12 and to the plumbing trade was a bit winding. He studied masonry in trade school and was planning to become a bricklayer. By chance, a neighbor told him about a job driving a truck for a plumbing company. Seeking fatherly advice, his dad told him that people always need plumbing. “And what would you do as a bricklayer in the winter?” his father asked. That sold Vaughan, and he drove the plumbing truck for a few months before apprenticing at Ferris and Mahoney in Roslindale. From the start, he says, he looked at his work as a career and hit the ground running. “I’d find out whether a crew was working on Saturdays and then join them. I have a strong work ethic, and I’ve always taken the job seriously.” Among the shops he has worked for are J.C. Cannistraro and P.J. Dionne, both GBPCA members. The projects he has worked on include the Millennium Tower at 1 Franklin Street in Boston, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Battery Wharf, and schools in the towns of Lexington and Needham.
Jermaine Johnson is a Dorchester guy, in the last year of his fiveyear apprenticeship with Local 12 of the plumbers union.
Married for 24 years with four children, Vaughan says that Local 12 has given him a wonderful opportunity to really learn a trade and provide a good life for himself and his family. “The training is great. The options are great. I think this is where plumbers need to be.” As a business agent, he’s now on a mission to spread the word.
Wayne Thomas Continued from page 6 nificant initiatives. Among them was a move from a three-year to a five-year curriculum for apprentices. He says that the passing rate for apprentices has improved from about 45% under the three-year model to about 90% for the five-year program. Thomas adds that the standardized curriculum is helping produce a new generation of better-educated and more qualified plumbers. Another big change was the introduction of the continuing education requirement for licensees. It’s been a massive undertaking, and, Thomas says, it didn’t come without some pain. But, he adds that it has evolved into a great way to get important info to all of the state’s plumbers and help keep them in tune with the industry’s latest developments. Thomas says that he has an open-door policy and encourages licensees to contact him with questions or concerns. Call him at 617-727-6388 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. “We’re here for you,” the Board’s executive director says.
For the first few years of that apprenticeship, whenever Johnson got called in for mandatory training, he filed for and got unemployment benefits, something to tide him over when he was not working. Then, last year, that changed. He couldn’t file for unemployment. Instead, he lost a couple of paychecks as he went to mandatory classes. “It’s not fair,” Johnson said. “We pay into unemployment. And when there’s mandatory training, we can’t work. At the end of the day, we all have families to feed.” For many years, apprentices used to work all day, then go to school at night when there was mandatory training. But there was a consensus that apprentices were not retaining the training as well as they should because many were tired after a day’s work. Others were commuting long distances to the training. After the training was switched to days, the Patrick administration in 2010 issued what was essentially a waiver, allowing apprentices to file for unemployment for the weeks they were participating in mandatory training. The waiver was directed at the requirement that workers must be available to work while collecting unemployment benefits. But last July, the Baker administration rescinded that waiver. A memo from the state Department of Unemployment Assistance said that anyone engaged in “apprentice training or union-required skills enhancement training shall be deemed as failing to meet the availability” to work standard. The new directive may be on sound legal footing, but it seems a bit petty. And, after you strip
what it means is working stiffs are getting stiffed because they have to go to mandatory training. Depending on the trade in question, an apprentice could miss up to three weeks of pay a year, according to Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council. “Unemployment isn’t even a full week’s pay,” said Callahan. “All it does is take the sting off. You’re talking about a lot of young people who cannot afford to miss a week’s pay.” Continued on page 8
Residential Continued from page 5 In addition to the tangible benefits, Lyons says the plumbers working on the Avalon project are getting other things that are just as important: respect and appreciation. “They are treated right by both Local 12 and us,” he says. “And they are grateful for the support.” Just about every person working on Avalon came up to Patriot’s president at the shop’s holiday party to thank him and to say that they had never been to an event at any other company before. While Local 12 is taking a leadership role in establishing a residential division, other Boston-area union building trades, including the painters and sprinklerfitters, have developed similar initiatives. In doing so, organized labor has an opportunity to capture market share in a market that is exploding. “We think that we’re at the beginning of something that’s really going to open some doors,” says Brett. “Both for developers and contractors as well as plumbers that want to be part of Local 12.” For people seeking an affordable place to live, Local 12’s residential division will also help open doors — to their new apartments. PAGE 7
Local 12 Apprentices Shouldn’t Get Stiffed Says Cullen Continued from page 7 There are about 8,000 apprentice plumbers, pipe fitters, iron workers, carpenters, laborers, and sheet metal workers registered with the state. While it’s hard to get an exact figure, Callahan estimates the amount of money we’re talking about is maybe $3 million to $5 million a year. Callahan said Massachusetts has a high standard of trade work, in part because it has a comprehensive apprenticeship program for so many trades. We are way ahead of other parts of the country, and employers are just as
enthusiastic about apprentice programs as the unions. Five states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, Ohio, Washington, and California — allow apprentices to collect unemployment benefits while they take part in mandatory training. Massachusetts would become the sixth if an amendment to the state budget passes this year. Jermaine Johnson was among the apprentices who fanned across Beacon Hill, meeting with lawmakers, trying to explain their plight, that they were looking to get a benefit they pay for. “I’d like to think they get it,” Johnson said of legislators. “People might say, ‘Well, you’re only talking about missing a week or two or three. But I’d say, what would you do if you didn’t get paid for a week or two or three? What would that do to your family?”
Apprentices are a boon to the economy. They are apprentices not just to the trades, but to the incredible shrinking middle Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito toured Local 12’s Training Center class. They typically earn and met with Harry Brett, business manager (2nd from left), Hugh a lot more than comparaKelleher, executive director of the GBPCA (4th from left), and Rick ble workers without uniCarter, training center director (5th from left). Joining Polito for the versity degrees. They end visit was Joe Sullivan, the mayor of Braintree. up paying more taxes, and they also end up getting an education that isn’t saddled with the ridiculous debt that so many kids coming out of college have. But at the end of the day, they’re working people,
and working people shouldn’t get stiffed because we have higher standards than so many other states.
Ryan Washington Continued from page 3 your hard work will pay off,” Washington says. “I’ll be able to enjoy my grandchildren. It’s a good feeling.” Washington is working at 888 Boylston Street in Boston, a new high-rise building located next to the Prudential Center. He says that his co-workers at J.C. Higgins have been great about letting him get his hands dirty and, more recently, letting him figure more things out on his own. “When I do something wrong, they’re right there to show me how to fix it and do it the right way. I work with a bunch of great journeymen.” He is still an active member of the Massachusetts National Guard and has about six more years of duty. He says it can be a bit tricky to juggle civilian and military life sometimes, but it generally works well. And he knows that he made the right choice for his career. “I could have worked 30 years for the Post Office,” Washington says. “It would have been 30 unhappy years. I think you have to go to work and enjoy it. I’m enjoying this.”
Dominique Cave Continued from page 3 and a little bit of everything else. “I’m not a pro at anything yet,” the first-year apprentice says. “But I’m getting a feel for lots of different things.” After a year in the industry, Cave says, “This feels right for me.”
Plumbers & Gasfitters Boston Local 12 1240 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02125 617-288-5400
Editorial Board Harry Brett Business Manager, U.A. Local 12 Joseph Cannistraro President, Greater Boston PCA Tim Fandel Business Agent, U.A. Local 12 Hugh Kelleher Executive Director, Greater Boston PCA Roger Gill Funds Administrator, U.A. Local 12
Kayla Whalen, a recent graduate of Beverly’s Montserrat College of Art, designed the official White House Christmas ornament for 2016. Kayla is the daughter of Local 12 member, Billy Whalen, who works for J.C. Cannistraro. The White House Historical Association chose Kayla’s design from several hundred entries. The fire engine motif represents the fire that engulfed the White House on Christmas Eve, 1929, during the Herbert Hoover administration. The historical association will produce and distribute one million of the ornaments.