History of Local 522
(Written for the 75th Anniversary in 1986)
Prior to the charter being issued by the United Association (U.A.), pipefitters were members of the International Association of Steamfitters (I.A.). Following a costly strike that cost the local most of its membership, several dissatisfied members requested assistance from the U.A. General Organizer Lynn came to Louisville to take part in the general revival among the Building Trades of Louisville. Mass meetings were held, local unions were visited, the Building Trades strengthened, new members and new locals chartered. Louisville's reputation was bad. Progress began with militant leaders with clean character. During this visit to Louisville, Brother Lynn met with the officers of the Pipefitters and agreed conditions were deplorable. They had absolutely lost their strike; their members were sick and tired of paying dues and receiving no real assistance, nearly all had been dropped, and practically no meetings were being held. He learned of these conditions from the only men in good standing in the city, four men in a territory that should support a local of at least fifty men. They invited Brother Lynn to attend their meeting, finding barely a quorum present. Pointing out to them the advantage of affiliation with a bona fide, international, trade union, the four in good standing agreed to do so; among these four were the president and secretary-treasurer. Assisted by the old president,he proceeded to organize a Steamfitters Local under the United Association. During the month of December 1910, the charter was issued and effective January 7, 1911, the union was officially known as "Steamfitters, General Pipe Fitters, and Helpers.”
June 25, 1944, the United Association granted permission for the local to change its name to ''Pipefitters Local Union 522''. The following day, the Apprentice Program was established. The first two members to complete the program were William "Bud " Hammond and Edward "Ed " Horn, on October 15, 1947. In 1955, a 2 1/2 cent per hour was negotiated to finance apprentice and journeyman training. Prior to the fund, training was held at Ahrens Trade School.
At the beginning, the Steam Fitters met at various locations. They met every Friday evening, changing meeting dates and times over the years. The meetings were held at Germania Hall , 1st and Jefferson, Beck's Hall , Liederkiaz Hall, 6th and Walnut , Moose Hall, 528 Sixth St., Labor Temple, 2nd and Market , Tyler Hotel , 3rd and Jefferson , Watterson Hotel , Walnut St., Labor Temple, Preston and Broadway . The cornerstone of the present offices and meeting hall, 1317 Berry Boulevard in South Louisville, was laid in 1953. We met for the first time in February 1954.
The insurance fund was negotiated in 1954, at a cost of 7 ½ cents per hour to the present $1.33 per hour. Benefits were conservative at first. Today benefits exceed most hospital plans. In 1962, a Pension Fund was negotiated. The Fund began with $ .10 per hour. Over the years, it has increased to the present $1.40 per hour. After one year, the Fund paid a benefit to all retired members with at least 10 years membership. The benefit has increased from $20.00 minimum in 1963, to the present $800.00 plus. In 1963, all future pensions were paid at 1 ½ % of monies accumulated today; 3% of total monies accumulated for each individual.
In seventy-five years, there have been lean times as well as prosperous years. Hard work and keeping pace with the advances of a technology couldn’t have been imagined by the worker of 1911. The 1986 pipefitter earned his hourly base pay of $16.45 just as much as the 1919 pipefitter, who sweated under miserable conditions for $.90 an hour.
We know we have a strong and rich heritage from those who went before us. May we all have the strength, courage, and conviction to carry on proudly in the spirit of the brotherhood. Democracy is the only way of living we know. We should always exercise our voting privilege, attend our union meetings, protect our work jurisdiction, and give an hour’s work for an hour’s pay.
In compiling the history of Pipefitter's Local 522, the committee encountered several conflicting dates and reports. Since the history and heritage of our fine local is very lengthy and complex, we used our own discretion.