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Which Union Should I Join?

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  • Which Union Should I Join?

    Hello everyone, I'm new to the board, my name is Lindy. I'm 17, turning 18 pretty soon and looking into a union to join. I'm very interested in the UA Local 43 (Chattanooga, TN), as I really want to relocate there after I turn 18. Yet, I'm also interested in the Boilermakers, I can put in for an apprenticeship in Hattiesburg, MS (45 mins away from where I stay) and move to Chattanooga. I'm going to the community college for welding and hopefully, I can become my uncles helper to learn a few tricks. Any tips anyone, please offer your opinions, positive or negative as I'm weighing my options..


  • #2
    Since nobody's responded to this post so far, I'm going to go out on a limb and give you some of my views on this. I'm probably going to start a firestorm (I hope not, though), but I'm just relaying MY take on the subject and I don't mean to offend anyone. It's just one man's opinion.

    First of all, let me begin by saying that I was a union member for 35 years in the Heavy & Highway construction industry. I was offered a business representative's position on 3 occasions and I turned them all down. I do have a good pension (the problem with union pensions though is that most of us never save anything extra for retirement because we know that we have that pension waiting for us and after a few years of retirement, you are living off the other workers, as your pension earnings are used up rather quickly), but outside of that, they never did anything positive for me. I made sure that I was very good at what I did and I never really needed a union to "protect me". The union that I belonged to would not allow us to look for work on our own. We had to go through a hiring hall ( It's funny how people with connections always seemed to get the best jobs). I've learned through the years that most of the guys that always depended on the union for everything were the ones that weren't very good at their jobs.

    In theory, unions are a good thing, but in practice, they're just another way to steal from you so that those at the top can live better than you.
    At 17, why be in a rush to give up your freedom and become one of the group? Many union members do make an excellent living, but they have to give a portion of their earnings back to the union. In many cases, the more you work, the more they take (sounds kinda like the Government, doesn't it). They don't have a choice in this.

    You're young, why don't you take a little time and look into things a little deeper? I truly believe that if you're smart, work hard and learn your craft as well as you can, you will be much better off on your own. At the very least, take some time to look into both sides of the subject and then you can make an educated decision with both your eyes open. Maybe seek opnions from both union and non-union members. You can ask advice from as many people as you want, but remember, you have to live with your decision, so make sure that it's right for you. You may feel that belonging to a union is just what you want. Only you can decide that.


    • #3
      I'm a member of both and I'll tell you right now, of the two, stay away from the Boilermakers.

      I spent 31 years in the pipefitters as a pipefitter/welder, apprenticeship instructor and took a early retirement in 2004. A friend of mine, who also took a early retirement from the pipefitters, and was a business agent, pipefitter/welder and apprenticeship instructor, for the local that we both belonged to, called me and said that we could still draw our pipefitter pensions and join the Boilermakers and work a few shutdowns a year for some extra money, if we wanted to. This sounded pretty good to me because both unions pretty much do the same things, .... as to welding. Pipefitters weld pipe and the Boilermakers weld boiler tubes, so the transition from pipe to boiler tubes was no problem for us.

      After a few of these shutdowns I told my friend that I'd had enough and was not going to work inside any more boilers again. The problem was, ....... not what I was doing, but the working conditions which I had to do them in. In my years as a pipefitter, working the construction trade, I've worked on the the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, when it was being built, in the 70's and have gone back up there a few times for maintenance repair work in Prudhoe Bay, several nuclear power plants being constructed on the west coast, in the 80's and also their yearly shutdowns, after they started operations, pulp and paper mills, the construction of computer and computer chip plants, during their construction period, underground gas and oil pipelines, gas and oil refineries, coal and gas co-generation plants, so the experience I've gained, over the years, has covered a few different areas of the construction trade. To make a long story short, in the pipefitters I've had a few jobs that were done in rather dirty and filthy conditions, which is part of the game, BUT ......... working inside of boilers has to be some of the worst work I've ever done in my life. The DIRTEST job I ever worked, in the pipefitters was probably cleaner than the CLEANEST job I worked inside those boilers. Not only that, there's something that I became aware of only after working inside of boilers and it's what the boilermakers call the "boiler flu." After each short shutdown job, and during longer shutdowns, I'd come down with flu like symptoms and be sick for a couple of weeks. After a few times of this was when I said I'd had enough of this crap. I was about to hang it up with the boilermakers, when I found out I could get back on the nuclear power plant shutdown circuit and work a couple of nuclear plant shutdowns as a boilermaker. I filled out all the paperwork, which is a job in itself, got all the FBI background checks done, and up until a couple of years ago just worked those. It was really nice to leave the cold and wet weather, during the fall, winter and spring seasons in Oregon, and spend that time in sunny southern California. I'd leave Oregon in September and work near San Diego until around Thanksgiving, then have until the middle of February off, which I would spend with on of my sons and grand kids in LA, then drive up to the Santa Barbara area and work another plant until the latter part of April, then come back home. I had the late spring and all the summer off and wouldn't have to be back to California until late September. This time off was spent fishing, scuba diving and whatever else I wanted to do and it was GREAT. Last year I decided to start drawing Social Security and quit work altoghether, except for a part time instructors job at the pipefitters school, which consists of 2 nights a week, 3 hours a night.

      To sum this up I'll say, I'm a book carrying member of both unions and "I've been there and done that before" with both, but my suggestion is to go with the pipefitters. After you're in for awhile and get a chance to see things, as they are, you'll see what I'm talking about.


      • #4
        Which Union Should I Join?

        I started out in the ua and ended up leaving to join the boilermakers. There is good and bad to both. But from my experience the best pipe fitter welders came from the boilermakers. And a lot of the pipe fitters were pre madonnas who didn't really wanna get dirty or work. But again there was really good pipe fitters too in the ua everything is round. And a lot of 6010/7018. With the boilys we tig tubes and do lots of plate work. We do heavy rigging and all sorts of other things. I found if I wanted to stand around till it was time to weld the pipe fitters was good. But if I wanted to be a all around tradesman an get in get dirty and get the job done the boilermakers was it. And about boiler flu. I've never had it. They always provide respirators now a days and cover alls so it depends what you want. They are both great trades. With very knowledgable tradesman and they are both the best of the best for anything steel. Just what you want. I have never regretted switching to the boilermakers. Worked lots more too. Good luck


        • #5
          There's a couple of other things you might want to consider as to which union you might want to join, and that is educational benefits.

          Like I said before, I started welding when I was 23 and didn't join the pipefitters until I was 34. In all the years I've welded I never thought that I'd ever stop liking what I was doing. Then one day it happened, I stopped and REALLY asked myself if this WAS REALLY what I wanted to do for the rest of my working life. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I dislike welding in any way, it's that I had come to the point that welding wasn't the challenge that I once thought it was and liked. I guess I can say I sort of got BORED with doing the same thing all the time. Don't think this will happen to you, ..... think again, ........ it happens to just about everyone of us, at some point in life.

          After this happened to me I started looking around trying to figure out what I wanted to do besides welding, so I just started taking jobs as a fitter, every so often, and let somebody else do the welding. This worked out okay, but it still wasn't what I was looking for. Having some previous drafting experience before becoming a pipefitter, I found out that I could go out on jobs as a detailer, which also falls under pipefitter work. Wearing slacks and a sports shirt to work, drafting and detailing, sure beat welding all day, not to memtion it sure was lots easier on the old body. I did this for the last few years, up until I took early retirement, from the pipefitters, in 2004.

          The pipefitters offer other areas of education than just pipefitting and welding. Refrigeration and air conditioning, instrumentation and control systems, heating and plumbing. These courses are offered to their members free and are well worth the time to take them. This gives you the chance to branch out and have other qualifications than just that of a pipefitter or welder. After joining the boilermakers, I looked around and found out that they were lots more limited as to the type and number of job categories they had, so this might want to be something to consider when you are trying to make a choice as to which trade union you are thinking about joining. If, at some point in your future, you ever think about some sort of a career change, ..... just remember it's always better to have something to fall back on, than it is to have to start over again. This is what happened to me and I made sort of a career change, but within my own line of work and it payed off well.

          Yes, I did read Homer's reply, and as for a comment I will say this, I worked non-union before joining the pipefitters, so I've worked both sides of the fence and even though I'm not in full agreement with some of the actions that unions have, I will say that, from the pipefitters union standpoint only, that for the educational benifits and rather LARGE scope of their work related job catagories, within their own trade, I have had a very rewarding career and have raised a family and made lots more money than I would have ever made working non-union. I have friends that work non-union and are happy with that and we do talk about it at times, but we all agree on one thing and that is, we each made our own choice in life, as to what we did and we don't let the non-union/union part of it cause problems. It's like everything else in life, everyone has their own like and dislike, about every subject.
          Last edited by diverbill45; 02-10-2013, 02:01 AM.


          • #6
            union to join

            i can tell you this. you got great advice already. i agree with that advice 100%


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