Plumbers & Steamfitters UA Local 43 in Chattanooga, TN has
enjoyed a rich history since receiving its charter on August 25, 1890. The
local has withstood many up and downs in the labor movement. Once a thriving
industrial city, the 1980’s took its toll in Chattanooga. The following
years would be hard times for our members. Then state and local officials
began a huge undertaking to revitalize Chattanooga’s riverfront. We would
see a change to commercial opportunity and see the industry fall rapidly.
This transformation would last for many years, in which numerous
restaurants, hotels, parks, a new semi-pro baseball stadium, the south’s
largest fresh and salt water aquariums were all completed and are now
visible in the downtown area.
Over a period of decades our members have adjusted well to the changing
times. Through the 1960’s and 70’s the transition from residential and
commercial work took on a whole new meaning when TVA located (2) two nuclear
plants within Local 43’s jurisdiction. Today Watts Bar and Sequoyah Nuclear
plants along with (13) thirteen dams, a pump storage facility and TVA’s
Chattanooga office complex, combined, helps to provide millions of man hours
for Local 43 members.
With TVA’s presence in the Tennessee Valley, a lot of families have enjoyed
many prosperous years. But TVA is only a portion of the industry. Other
major company’s in the industry include Dupont, BASF, Dow Chemical, Vesicol
Chemical, to name a few.
Through these times our members, officers and leaders had to adapt to many
changes in our trade. Creating a state of the art training facility, our
apprentices and journeyman have the opportunity and ability to continue
increasing their knowledge and skills of the trade.
With the decrease of industry in our jurisdiction, our Journeyman and
Apprentices saw the need to better equip them for the job market that
remained. The vast majority of our members currently hold multiple
certifications that are more suited to the service type jobs that remain.
Some of these certifications are; EPRI Valve Maintenance, Certified Backflow
Technicians, Med Gas and Certified Welders, to name a few.
We currently have over 150 apprentices enrolled in classes and anticipate a
25% growth for the 2009 calendar year. The training department has also
secured one of the UA’s “Mobile Welder Training Trailers” for use in
fulfilling the numerous certified welder positions that are being projected
throughout the upcoming years. Our Training Coordinator, Larry Morrison has
been aggressive in his recruitment of new apprenticeship candidates. By
entering into the secondary education arena and taping potential candidates
in their junior year of high school, he has established a productive
relationship with both the individual and the school faculty. With the
escalating demand for skilled personnel, our current training facility will
have no choice but to expand to meet that need.
With warm Southern hospitality, Local 43 members play a vital role in the
community by sponsoring numerous activities and organizations such as: Golf
tournaments, Special Olympics, American Cancer Society, American Heart
Association, American Veterans, Local Rescue Squads, Local Fire Departments,
softball/baseball teams, Local 43 Softball team, and Tennessee Sheriff’s
Association to name a few.
In September 2007, for the first time in approximately 30 years the Local
hosted a Labor Day Celebration which was located at the union hall office in
the back yard. The back yard celebration was a family event and attracted
over 200 people. Including children of all ages, families and friends of
members that all gathered together for fellowship, entertainment, and good
food. Several of the officers and members volunteered along with spouses to
help with the food and set up for the event. We had blow up units for the
children to play on, a live band made up of talented Local Brothers/Sisters,
BBQ - smoked overnight that melted in your mouth along with all the
traditional sides that go along with a southern back yard BBQ. We were very
proud with the turn out and success of the event and have every intention of
continuing with similar events in the future.
In September of 2007, at the Labor Day celebration, Local 43 Business
Manager, David L. Tolley proudly announced that Local 43 had decided to
launch a new program called “Local 43 Annual Christmas for Kids.” This
program is one of the most fulfilling events we have encountered and ever
been involved with. The success of this program depends solely on donations
that we receive from various vendors, contractors, and other labor
organizations in the Chattanooga and surrounding areas.
The 1st Annual Christmas party was held December 2007 at Local 43. Local 43
Office Manager, Jennifer L. Smith worked closely with a Volunteer
Coordinator of an organization with the State Department of Children’s
Services to coordinate and obtain information that would help us make this
event a success. Together, these two ladies were able to coordinate a list
of 15 children of all ages from 2-11 years old, most of which were in foster
care as a result of abuse or neglect that was considered less fortunate than
some. This list provided us information that was needed to make appropriate
gift purchases for each child. Volunteers compiled of Local 43 office staff,
members, and families of each, took a child’s list of necessities, with
sizes and wishes to shop for them. We were able to buy each child on the
list a bicycle with a helmet, clothing, shoes, various toys and
miscellaneous items from their wish lists along with a stocking full of
goodies. Santa Claus made a special appearance to hand out gifts and we
served a hotdog/hamburger lunch to every one present. The children were very
grateful and didn’t hesitate to let us know by sending thank you cards and
letters for helping to make their Christmas a memorable one. By helping and
sponsoring these foster children for Christmas, we not only provided them
with necessities, gifts, and a memorable Christmas, but also sent a very
important message to each of them. Even though they may have been victimized
by their own family members, it is the children who most often accept
responsibility and blame for the abuse or neglect they have suffered. Their
guilt is accompanied by low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and
rejection. Local 43 wants to make a difference and let these children know
that they are not forgotten and that someone does care.
We are beginning to gear up for the Local 43 2nd Annual Christmas for Kids
party for 2008. We are very excited and hopeful that this year’s event will
be even bigger and better. Reaching out to more organization’s for donations
and hopefully getting a good response we will be able to make that list of
children’s names grow even longer with each passing year. Their smiles and
gratitude along with the blessings we received and the memories created were
Work in the Local 43 jurisdiction holds high promises in the near future,
Local 43 Business Agent, Joe Collins recently stated: “Although we are a
little slow right now, this is just the calm before the storm.” This
statement holds a lot of truth for the future of Local 43 and its
membership. Local 43 has employed members in both the private and public
sector, commercial and industrial in the Chattanooga area for years now.
Early this year things began to change in our favor, with an announcement by
TVA that Watts Bar Nuclear Plant would complete Unit II after initial
construction came to a halt back in 1985. This project alone will take over
(4) four years to complete and will employee over 500 UA craftsmen. Another
big announcement for the good of the Local was a $349 million dollar
expansion at one of two major medical facilities in the downtown Chattanooga
area. This project will consist of several phases and will last
approximately (3) three years. Local 43 received word recently that Chicago
Bridge & Iron will be constructing a new facility in the northwest section
of our jurisdiction, to support the nuclear boom. We have very little
information on the details regarding this project but expect it to begin
late this year or early in 2009.
And last but most definitely not least. When we felt that things could not
get any better with the news of all these upcoming projects, July 15, 2008
the city of Chattanooga exploded with excitement when, what some would
consider to be the greatest news in many years, the announcement was made
that Volkswagen would begin construction on Chattanooga’s first car assembly
plant. Volkswagen expects to spend $1 Billion dollars on this plant, and
construction is set to start immediately.