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Working union in 2010.

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  • Working union in 2010.

    Those of you that know me on here know that I am a self employed rig welder for the past 2.5 years. Things have been hit and miss for me thats for sure. Last year I parked the rig and worked as an employee for a local mechanical company doing all of their pipe welding. This company was a former union contractor gone private 5 yrs ago. I quit in Nov of 2009 to go back to the oilfields with my rig. I only managed 5 weeks of work before being laid off in early Jan of this year. I sat at home for over 2 months making phone calls and faxing companies all over western Canada trying to find work with my rig or by hand, but to no avail.
    In March I hit up the local UA hall and hit it off with one of the business reps. My wifes Grandpa and his brother both have over 40 yrs with UA 179 here in Sask. both as rig welders...the wifes Grandpa was a bead hand on the pipeline and his bro was more into facility, fab work. Anyways there was my in and within a few weeks I got a call to work out at a nearby potash mine. I have now been there nearly 3 months and its going pretty good. I have mostly been welding stainless which has been a real good learning experience. My probation is nearly up and I have 3 letters from co workers and foremen and some successful x ray documents to add in there as well. It seems like I will be joining and becoming a member.
    In the past I have been quite anti union, being that I worked in Alberta for 10 yrs and what not. I had always heard bad things about the union...many of which I now see were assumptions and prejudices.
    There is alot of work coming up in my province and the union provides a good wage, benefits and a pension all of which are important to me as a professional pressure welder and a husband and father. I am just plain tired of trying to make it on my own with my rig worrying about whether or not I will be able to provide for my family as the bills continue to pile up as I sit at home trying to find work in a field where its who you know not what you know. I realize that I name dropped at the union hall also but a guy has got to do what he's got to do and once I'm in I'm in and will no longer be up late at night compiling fax numbers for business' that are never going to call me back.
    I have now seen union and non union in this area and let me tell you I can really see the differences. That private co. I worked for last year that dropped its union contract 5 yrs ago was a terrible place to work. I won't get into all the details now but I'll just say that I can see why the RICH EMPLOYER is happier these days and not his underpaid overworked 22 year old plumbing apprentices doing the work of journeymen who were non existent. Tip of the iceburg...
    Basically I have changed my tune on working union and would like some view points from around N America on the subject of union and private sector welding work. I am sure this will create some heated debate, but lets try to keep this respectful and honest. Thanks.

  • #2
    I just read you post and found it to be quite inspiring. I work in Saskatoon and have worked in a few shops both as a fabricator and a welder. I have heard about union work but only stories of from someone who knows someone and so on. I take it from your post that you are enjoying it. could you please explain to me and any others who may not know exactly how does it work being part of a union? Do you still have to apply for jobs or do you work for the union and they send you out? What type of work do you do? Can you run your own rig if you already have one. Can anyone join a union or do you need certain tickets first? Any info would be nice as I have often thought about joining a union but know nothing about it. I didn't even realize until reading your post that there was one in Saskatoon. Where are they and how do I join or apply?

    Sorry for all the questions I just saw where you are from and thought you might be able to shed some light on the subject for me and others.

    Thank you.
    Hobart Mega Arc 5040DD (with built in air compressor)
    MM Passport Plus with Q-gun

    sold MM 251

    There are only 2 tools needed in a tool box. 1) Duct tape to fix any thing that moves that isn't supposed to. 2) WD40 to fix anything that doesn't move but should.


    • #3
      I can definitely try to shed some light on this subject for you MegaArc.

      The union which I refer to is UA or United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Welders, Sprinklerfitters and Steamfitters Local 179 based out of Regina but they do have an office here in Stoon which is on Northridge Dr.
      You can go to for more detailed info on addresses etc.
      The type of work is mainly pipe welding and some structural also when supports and brackets need to be fabed up for installing the piping. A current pressure ticket is all thats needed but a small bore and a stainless TIG ticket will get your resume to the top faster. No need in applying before you have your initial pressure welding ticket if you do not already have one.
      Once sent out to a job you have 3 months probation and at the end of that time you need 2 letters of recommendation from co workers and 1 from your foreman as well as any x ray records that you can get.
      After this is sent in the higher ups in Regina review all of this and decide to initiate you in or not. After being initiated you become a member and you have your name put on the board. If you are working at one of the various job sites throughout the province your name is not on the board, but if you quit or get laid off your name goes on and you will get called out to other jobs or you can call the hotline to see what is available at the time and go from there. Basically you can pick and choose the jobs that you want to do based on location, duration, hours per week etc. obviously only if multiple jobs exist that are in need of men.
      A guy can get work with his rig on certain jobs. From what I hear competition is fairly tough for these spots and alot of guys get name hired before they hire guys off the board. Still the who you know game kinda from what it sounds like, but alot of these guys will be retiring in the upcoming years and hopefully opening it up to the younger crowd like myself.
      As far as wages go it's higher than average for Sask anyways. In the past 2.5 months I have averaged just shy of 10K per month gross. Monday to Thursday we do 10 hour days at regular pay of course...Fridays are 8 hrs OT and 2 hrs double and Sat and Sun are all double you see how this can add up in a week when projects are going hard. Shut down season is just starting and that means anywhere from 21 to 60 days straight through with no days off. $110 per working day sub pay when out of town also. Good pension and benefits program as well...not sure of all the details off hand.
      Anyways thats about all I got for ya man. If you have any more questions fire away.


      • #4
        A big and sincere congratulations on going union!! I dare say that this is one decision that you will be quite pleased with for the rest of your life.

        A union is like a family, as you are no doubt finding out. Lots of brothers and sisters and, just like in a family, some you will be closer to than others. All should be respected and treated fairly and you should be treated the same.

        A union membership is NOT a free ride. The contractors that employ union workers also pay higher wages and agree to certain work rules spelled out in labor agreements or contracts. In return they expect and deserve higher productivity and greater craftsmanship to justify the greater costs incurred.

        You said that your prior experience with unions was from hearsay. Usually what you hear is all bad. Well, you will find out that most of what you have heard is all BS. Is everything all peachy and rosy? Of course not. Nothing in this world is. But it is so much better than your average non-union job that there is no comparison.

        You will enjoy work rules that apply to all, a good pension and probably an excellent annuity. Training is first class and is an ongoing thing, even for journeymen. There are obligations such as union dues to pay but that is made up for many times over by your union wages.

        I would suggest reading some history of labor unions and the conditions that lead to their formation. There are many interesting leaders from different unions that have all contributed to gain the benefits we enjoy now. Quite a few have even given their lives in the struggle to have better working conditions, better work rules and better pay. Even non-union workers have benefited greatly from unions, though many do not realize it or deny it.

        Different unions in the US and in Canada have their own way of doing things such as call outs, "signing the books" (out of work list), out of jurisdiction work, etc. but all is geared to the benefit of the membership. There are differences also between shop unions and trade unions but they are usually minor.

        I have been a member of the United Auto Workers, the United Mine Workers and now the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. Been a Boilermaker for almost 20 years and have made many friends and met some very interesting people from all over the United States. The work is interesting and challenging and pays well. I have worked both "sides of the fence" and can honestly day that the difference is like night and day.

        I hope for your continued success and active participation as a union member.

        Good luck and be careful,
        Flash me! I'm a welder.

        American by birth, Union by choice! Boilermakers Local 60

        America is a Union


        • #5
          Originally posted by dmk welding View Post
          alot of guys get name hired before they hire guys off the board. Still the who you know game kinda from what it sounds like
          Congratulations dmk welding!
          As in many things in life, you live and die on your reputation.
          I hope it works out that you can put your rig to work, huge investment to just have setting idle.
          These are "my" views based only on “my” experiences in “my” little bitty world.


          • #6
            Thanks Bob, thats encouraging to hear.

            Sonora, my reputation is just fine and I plan on keeping it that way. My rig was a $30K investment which isnt alot these days. I have worked for private companies with my rig for between $65-$70/hr supplying fuel, O/A and grinding discs not to mention my own WCB and liability insurance.
            I now make $52 hr for the 1st 8 hours on Fridays...$69 for the last 2 hrs and $69 all day long on Sat and Sun. I basically make more if not the same as when I work with my rig non union in Sask. I don't live and die relying on only working with my rig like some guys I know, I go out work hard when there is work to be done and provide for my family.


            • #7
              DMK: Congratulations, Brother! Bob the Welder summed it up best, in his post. You'll find the "myths," to be unfounded, and based on opinionated conjecture. Especially since, Miller and Lincoln both, have such high visibility amongst the UA and Pipeliner's Union.

              I was surprised to find so many non-Union advocates on this Forum. For those who have never worked Union, they don't know; have nothing to compare it to, except their imaginations.

              You made the right choice!
              Last edited by davedarragh; 06-11-2010, 08:11 AM.
              "Bonne journe'e mes amis"


              • #8
                Hi Brother Dave. Wondered when you would chime in. Like you Dave, I was surprised at the amount of anti-union rhetoric that I have seen displayed by those with little or no first hand experience. Given a chance, I bet that virtually all would remain union Brothers and Sisters after just "Saying Yes".

                I guess you don't know what you're missing if you have never had it!
                Flash me! I'm a welder.

                American by birth, Union by choice! Boilermakers Local 60

                America is a Union


                • #9
                  If I was going back to work in the trades it would likely be union, someone would have to make me a screaming deal to do it any other way.


                  • #10
                    I think the biggest misconceptions the average Joe has about unions is: Building Trades vs. Retail, factory, city, state, and federal government. Building Trades Unions are whole different ball game! People like to lump all union workers into the same pot, trust me, barely on the same planet!
                    These are "my" views based only on “my” experiences in “my” little bitty world.


                    • #11
                      Most of the bad press unions get is because of some union members that loose sight of the need to be a productive worker, and instead begin to assume that they are owed a job no matter what their level of performance. Any employer that chooses union workers is making a statement about the quality of the products they make and they have every right to expect a union employee to perform at the highest levels of skill, proficiency and honesty. If the employer and the union worker are on the same page, their end use customer satisfaction levels can't be beat.

                      The biggest problems in a production environment is the trend of employees to lack the understanding of what it takes to bring work in the door on a regular basis and keep the doors open and get everyone paid. If the employee is not making the company more money in productivity than they are costing in wages and benefits, then there's not going to be a job.

                      The other big problem is when employers loose sight of the need to provide workers with adequate respect, compensation and opportunities to help the company and their careers grow. Too often, management looks to cut costs as a way to increase profits, instead of strengthening the team spirit and providing a chance for the motivated employee to share in the wealth of higher productivity.

                      I have worked as a union member and believe it is a necessary structure in a world where maximizing profit at any cost is the goal of many company owners and managers. I have also seen union members that bring shame to the union label by not carrying their fair share of the load and instead, exhibit the attitude that they are entitled to a paycheck whether they earned it or not.


                      • #12
                        Been union 20 yrs now

                        Those of you that know me here, also know that i work for the SMWIA.In Local 17 Boston,Mass.I run my rig after work for 15 years now and these are tuff times were in.We got 700 men out of 1400 out of work and my welding co./rig work is down 40% from 3 years ago.I,m basically welding to cover my overhead these last 14 months in hope of things getting better.Dmk i congratulate you on the union membership and wish you the best you won,t be dissappointed in your choice. AMERICAN BY BIRTH/ UNION BY CHOICE!!!
                        S-32 FEEDER W/1260 IRONMATE FC/GUN
                        HT/PWR-MAX1250 PLASMA


                        • #13
                          Union-Vote Yes!

                          Originally posted by Bob the Welder View Post
                          Hi Brother Dave. Wondered when you would chime in. Like you Dave, I was surprised at the amount of anti-union rhetoric that I have seen displayed by those with little or no first hand experience. Given a chance, I bet that virtually all would remain union Brothers and Sisters after just "Saying Yes".

                          I guess you don't know what you're missing if you have never had it!
                          I just saw this post when I got home this morning. In this business, hours of work, are very unconventional, as is all transportation. Factor in the time difference as well, (2-3 hrs difference) as Arizona does not observe DST, so some of my posts may seem tardy.

                          Then again, many of you may think I don't work, as much as I'm on the computer.

                          Actually I've got a 450 mile round trip in the mountains tonight, and a 600 mile New Mexico layover tomorrow, then I'm through until next Wed.

                          Then, time to "break in" my new 200 amp TIG torch off the Trailblazer
                          "Bonne journe'e mes amis"


                          • #14
                            United we bargain; divided we beg.

                            I'm just a hobbyist welder. But I've been union in my own profession for 15 years.
                            Jack Olsen
                            The Garage(And its slideshow)
                            The Car(And its slideshow)


                            • #15
                              dmk, congrats on getting in to your local. it will pan out for you and your family. just be willing to suck up any and all the information that they are willing to give you. take advantage of any journeyman training that they offer, it will only make you a better, more well rounded fitter/weldor. enjoy it, and welcome to the family brother!
                              American By Birth, Union by Choice!

                              4th generation Pipefitters LU 537

                              SpeedGlass 9000x Hood
                              Miller Elite Titanium 9400 Hood