Oh, Canada

June 13, 2013
By: Vicki Bell

After reading yesterday’s “Fabricating Update” e-newsletter, a reader from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, wrote to tell me how disappointed he was that Canada was not included in the news item about how difficult it is to find skilled workers globally.

Mexico’s  stats, which are nearly the same as the U.S.—38 percent and 39 percent respectively—were included, and he understood that, to a point: “I can see how Mexico fits in as your neighbor to the South … although Mexico would not seem likely to have a wealth of skills trade workers?”

Insulting the Mexican workforce aside, the reader had a point when he wrote, “I would think it would be a whole lot more relevant to mention Canada as we freely trade workers back and forth through the United Association.”

I should have considered Canada when putting together the story. The oversight was not intentional. The press release on which the item was based did not mention Canada. However, the survey noted in the release did. Thirty-four percent of Canadian employers reported difficulty filling jobs. That statistic and those for the other 41 countries surveyed can be found in the 48-page report.

The reader’s remarks also prompted me to find out more about the United Association, a union of  plumbers, fitters, welders, and HVAC service techs. The organization has an interesting history. Its birth dates back to 1889, “when a Boston plumber named P.J. Quinlan addressed a brief letter to Richard A. O’Brien, a plumber in Washington, D.C. ‘Dear Sir and Brother,’ the letter began, ‘I take the liberty of addressing a few lines to you to obtain your views as regards the formation of a United Brotherhood …’”

Before 1889 plumbers, steamfitters, and gas fitters who were organized were members of independent local unions with either no affiliation or affiliation with various trades.

“By 1889, however, with existing organizations declining or becoming devoted to only one craft, local union leaders began to consider other ways to unite national pipe trades journeymen to deal with mutual problems, including how to treat traveling members, build apprenticeship, and provide strike aid.

“In response to these issues, the United Association was officially born on October 11, 1889. The original name of the organization was the United Association of Journeymen Plumbers, Gas Fitters, Steam Fitters and Steam Fitters' Helpers of the United States and Canada.

“At the turn of the century, early UA leaders faced new challenges and were forced to make numerous controversial and revolutionary decisions. Among these was establishment of a mechanism that would allow UA members to travel to jobs throughout the United States and Canada. The clearance card system was created to enable unemployed journeymen in one locality to travel to work in another.”

The organization, which has an interesting history that can be found here, claims to be at the forefront of efforts to ensure “a steady supply of tradesmen skilled enough to meet the challenges of today’s diverse and expanding construction industry.” To that end, it has compiled a training program that it says “is unsurpassed among trade unions worldwide.”

Thank you, reader from Canada, for bringing my oversight to my attention, and more important, introducing me to this collaborative effort between our countries to increase the skilled labor supply. In appreciation, I’m sharing this video of one of Canada's favorite sons singing “O Canada.” Sing it, Bill. You’re fabulous!

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Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209