BUILDING A CITY, BUILDING THE FUTURE
Before Alberta even became a province, members of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 488 were applying their skills to the growth of its future capital city, Edmonton.
Edmonton was little more than a town when we incorporated in 1904 – its population was just 8,350 – and negotiated a pay rate of 27 cents an hour for a 54-hour week!
By the end of 1905, Edmonton had six miles of sewers, 125 miles of water mains and a grand total of 405 customers. As the city grew, demand for the expertise of our plumbing, gas and steamfitting members grew along with the city.
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Wages rose to the princely sum of 75 cents an hour by 1912, and the work week fell from 54 to 48 hours.
In 1923, construction of the Viking gas field pipeline heralded a new era of prosperity for Local 488 members. There was plenty of work to do, and wages were higher than ever. But the good times were all too brief – they came to a quick end with the Great Depression. Union membership dropped to just 35 members, and wages fell back to 90 cents an hour.
Ironically, WWII turned things around again. Edmonton became the staging point for the construction of the Alaska Highway, and Local 488 members went back to work. In 1946, we became the first Edmonton union to achieve the 40-hour workweek.
The discovery of oil at Leduc changed Alberta forever and Local 488 right along with it. For the first time, growth forced us to hire a business agent. The 1950s were boom times for Local 488, with refineries and power plants springing up across Edmonton and northern Alberta. By 1957 we had 1,200 members.
During the 1960s, the union added health and welfare and pension plans. Today, thanks to their early efforts, hundreds of retired union members are enjoying the security that those plans brought to their lives.
Alberta continued to boom in the 1960s and 1970s with the early development of Fort McMurray’s oil sands. During construction of the Syncrude mega project, 2,000 UA members were at work on the site.
The 1970s also saw the inception of the supplementary benefit fund, which has provided benefits to members that include educational bursaries for members' children and renewal of gas and welding tickets.
A severe economic downturn combined with anti-union government policies, made for tumultuous times through the 1980s and 1990s, but Local 488 continued its fight for fair treatment of its members.
By the early 2000s, a number of mega projects like the expansion of Syncrude, the Shell upgrader at Fort Saskatchewan and the Albian Sands Muskeg River mine project resulted in Local 488 hitting an all-time high in membership.
Today, we’re Alberta’s largest construction union Local, with more than 10,000 members, and we’re looking at a future that appears to be very positive, with more major industrial projects either underway or on the drawing boards.
Because of the incredible demand for our skills in this region, Local 488 supplies more pipe trades work than any other Local in North America!