Should You Hire a Plumbers Union Contractor?

Current United Association Logo

A Plumbers Union Cranks Out High Quality Tradesmen

Most people aren’t aware of this but your local plumbers union is governed by the much larger United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. Why does it or should it matter to you who you have on your jobsite or in your house? Let me preface this by saying that there are some great plumbers not associated with the United Association however; the UA has been training plumbers and pipefitters since 1889. They have been teaching the piping trades since the beginning of standardization and implementation of the codes and laws that we use today. There is something comforting about having a plumber in my home that has been trained by a plumbing association that began the actual trade.

plumbers union over a century of training
Over a century of training.

The UA spends about $250 million per year on education and that’s not just to train plumbers and pipefitters that is funding to train instructors as well. All plumbers and pipefitters union instructors are required to complete a college accredited instructor education course spanning 5 years. So what does it take to get into union plumbing? The United Association apprenticeship program is a 5-year program that combines both in the classroom and on the job training. The 5th year is usually night school and you can take your state test anytime in your 5th year. To be admitted into the program you must have a high school diploma and pass an entrance exam that includes basic intermediate math, science and English. Your rate of pay is graduated based on which year you are in the program. Each United Association local negotiates with their signatory contractors regarding base pay and benefits so starting pay for apprentices varies from local to local and from state to state. I will relate this bit of info to the readers, a good percentage of young men and women take a significant pay cut in their first couple years while working in the plumbing union towards their journeymen’s license.

 Plumber and Pipefitters Union Usually Combined

Although this is a plumbing site, us plumbers are inevitably linked to pipefitters and pipefitting and we should be. We call,Plumbers Union plumbers, pipefitters and sprinkler fitters piping tradesmen and the UA represents all signatory contractors in these fields. Here’s a bit of information that people may not know, most UA training facilities teach all three piping trades and at some point the student picks which trade they want to specialize in and away they go. There are only several non-combined locals in the US meaning there is a UA local for plumbing contractor a local for pipe fitters and local for sprinkler fitters.

So how does having a plumbing work done by a union plumbing contractor affect you the consumer or a commercial project? I believe most people would state the obvious “the plumbing work will cost more with union labor”. Is it true? For the most part that is probably a correct assumption however, over many years in the trades and seeing hundreds of union bids right next to non-union bids for the same work, it is remarkably close. The reason it is so close is that the non-union contractor pays a very high wage for exceptional talent and usually tries to match a union benefits package for that same talent.

There are some pretty big benefits to having a union plumber in your home or on your commercial project and they are as follows:

  • Education. This is one of the biggest benefits and they take it seriously. When you have a union plumbing contractor on a project they know their trade. In addition most UA piping trade unions require continuing education so the training isn’t over when your 5 years are up.
  • General Liability & Workers Compensation Insurance: Becoming a union signatory contractor has more stringent requirements. It requires a bond, general liability and workers comp insurance. As a consumer or commercial customer you’re covered.
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Union employees are in it for a career not as a stepping off platform for another career or for a way to pay the bills for a while. Skilled tradesmen have made a significant professional sacrifice to become what they are, it’s their livelihood.
  • Drug Screening: The UA is committed to a drug free work environment and they insist on every UA local have a drug screening policy and a drug and alcohol rehabilitation policy.
  • Future Leader Training: This may not be important to you but I believe it’s worth mentioning. The United Association is doubling down on it’s commitment to educating it’s members by offering to pay for college courses which include construction management degrees. So your service technician, foreman, apprentice or journeyman on the job may be a future industry leader. I think that’s pretty cool.
Plumbers Union
Union Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters and Steamfitters



As always thanks for reading. If you have any questions regarding this article or any others you can contact me @ or hit me up on Twitter @seankav1

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