“As soon as I joined Local 12, I knew it was the right move for me,” says Matt Massinger. In fact, he thought so highly of the union and all that it brought him, he quickly became an evangelist for Local 12, touting its benefits to non-union plumbers whenever he could. Without prompting, Messinger kept up his ad hoc outreach campaign, driven by a simple wish: “I just wanted more people to experience what I was experiencing.”
Since coming on board last November as Local 12’s recruitment specialist, he now gets to spread the word on a daily basis.
There was no grand plan to become a plumber, Messinger says. He played junior hockey, thinking that it might be a stepping-stone to college and tried a few semesters at Massasoit Community College. Deciding school wasn’t for him, Messinger’s grandfather, an electrician, sat him down and told him that if he was not going to go to college, he should consider becoming either an electrician or a plumber.
“I told him that I’d rather not get electrocuted,” Messinger recalls. “I think I’ll be a plumber.”
He began his career on the non-union side, logging nine years with open shops. While Messinger loved plumbing from the start, his non-union experience sharply contrasted with what he discovered after joining Local 12 in 2015. He ticks off the many ways that things improved for him after becoming a member, including better wages, vastly superior health care, a commitment to on-the-job safety, and a pension and other retirement benefits that take all of the worry out of being able to retire with comfort and dignity.
“Most non-union plumbers can’t say that they don’t worry about retirement,” Messinger says. “Many have to work well beyond retirement age. I don’t think I’d be too good swinging wrenches at 80.”
Messinger also points to the brother- and sisterhood aspect of the union, and says the great camaraderie he now enjoys just isn’t there on the non-union side.
After joining Local 12, Messinger went to work for GBCA contractor American Plumbing and Heating on the Vistaprint headquarters building in Waltham. He remained with American and mostly worked on projects in the Seaport including 101 Northern Ave., 399 Congress Street, and Amazon’s latest expansion at 1 Boston Wharf, the last job site he worked at before taking the recruitment position.
As an organizer, Messinger says he often shares his personal journey from non-union worker to union member. “I tell prospective members that I wouldn’t have half of what I have if it wasn’t for the local.” Having that kind of work history and perspective helped make Messinger a strong candidate for the recruitment job, according to Tim Fandel, Local 12’s business manager.
“I wanted somebody that non-union workers could relate to. They can see themselves in somebody like Matt and identify with him. He can speak with authority,” Fandel says.
Messigner works alongside Frank Amato, Local 12’s director of business development and recruitment. In addition to recruiting members, the two bring the local’s message to contractors in the hope of signing them on. Messinger says that he often has to dispel misconceptions about unions when he is in the field. But once he gets past the mistaken beliefs, Local 12 practically sells itself. The shops will be more successful, he tells them, and their employees will be happier, more productive, and more respectful of the business.
Saying that the recruitment position is a dream job, Messinger notes that new members will often come back to thank him for giving them the opportunity. “They’re always all smiles,” he says. “I see that, and I think this is the best job I could ask for.”
“My life changed entirely when I joined Local 12,” Messinger contends. “I wanted to pass it on. Now, it’s my job to do that.”