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Local 12 Boston Training Center annex shop

New annex opens at training center

To support its growing apprentice program, Local 12 reclaimed a building on its property and converted it into a classroom and shop. The expansion, which opened in September, allows the local’s training center to accommodate more apprentices. At 3,000 square feet, the annex’s shop is considerably larger than the existing ones in the main building. It gives instructors and apprentices a sizeable, flexible space in which to teach and develop skills.

Using a modular system, the shop features a variety of workstations that are mounted on wheels and can easily be moved as needed into or out of the space or rearranged depending on the topic being covered and the number of apprentices in the class. There is also a large electronic whiteboard that the instructors can use.

Local 12 Boston Training center annex shop workstation
Modular workstations in the new shop allow for lots of flexibility.

The classroom, which also includes a whiteboard, allows instructors to present lessons in a traditional educational setting. “Then we can walk students next door into the shop and put what they’ve learned in the classroom into practice,” says Rick Carter, the Training Center’s director.

Carter says that in addition to the apprentice classes, the annex will be used for journeymen service classes at night. Because of the shop’s flexibility and size, “everyone will have plenty of elbow room to build projects,” he adds. “It’s important that everybody gets on the tools and gets the attention they deserve. With the new and existing spaces, we could have three different shop classes running simultaneously if need be.”

After touring the annex, Patrick O‘Toole, VP at GBPCA contractor American Plumbing & Heating and a member of Local 12’s Apprentice Committee, said that he was impressed with the size and scope of the space. “The shop’s modules will enable apprentices to get hands-on training in various aspects of the trade such as piping, finish installation, and rigging,” he notes. “We want to be sure that our students continue to get the best training available.”

Joseph O’Leary, senior estimator for GBPCA contractor TG Gallagher, also serves on the Apprentice Committee and says that the he was pleased to see hybrid HVAC systems in the new shop. “Our members now have the ability to be qualified and licensed in the installation of energy-efficient heat pumps and associated systems,” says O’Leary. “This will expand our expertise.”

Local 12 Boston Training Center Expansion classroom
The annex expansion also includes a new classroom.

With the additional space afforded by the new shop, Local 12 developed a water heater lab in one of the training center’s original shops. It includes Bradford White units on which students can train. The manufacturer partnered with Local 12 to provide the water heaters. “We’ve grown our service work a lot,” says Harry Brett, Local 12’s business manager. “Now we will be able to do service training.”

With over 350 apprentices enrolled in the training center, the program has grown more than 60% over the last twelve years. “We needed to expand the program,” Carter says, noting that the center hired an additional instructor (see story elsewhere in this issue about Mike Lydon) as well as built the new classroom and shop.

Construction throughout the region remains strong. As a result, small- to mid-sized shops have been growing, and large contractors have been getting bigger. Also, new contractors have been signing on with Local 12.

“We are the feeder system for the local,” Carter adds. “And there is high demand for apprentices.”

Governor Baker at Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association event

Governor Joins PCA at New Office Open House

The Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association hosted an open house in honor of its new office located in Braintree. Governor Charlie Baker was the guest of honor for the event.

The Governor expressed his support for the work that has been and continues to be done by Plumbers Union Local 12 and the plumbing contractors to keep the Commonwealth safe and clean. Baker spoke with admiration regarding the tireless work of plumbers following the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley gas disaster and the ongoing work being done to ensure that Massachusetts continues to uphold the highest standards in the industry.

The evening was a chance for experts across the plumbing industry to meet and engage in productive dialogue with the top executive in the state. Among the important issues addressed during the evening were the Paid Family Medical Leave Act. The PCA also used the occasion to share info about the state’s plumbing code with the Governor.

Plumbing on the 12s GBPCA podcast

GBPCA produces a podcast for the plumbing industry

There is one thing that everyone has while sitting in traffic: time, and a lot of it. As plumbing professionals endure more and more traffic, the GBPCA recognized an opportunity to fill the void with something productive. Since podcasts have become an increasingly popular form of media, especially for drivers stuck behind the wheel, the organization decided to produce its own show.

“We think it’s a great way to reach those who would be interested in filling their commute time with insightful business studies, engaging interviews, and news from around the industry,” says Jeremy Ryan, GBPCA’s executive director.

Called “Plumbing on the 12’s,” the podcast puts a fresh spin on the daily traffic report. Ryan co-hosts the show with the organization’s director of public affairs, Andrew DeAngelo. It covers topics such as business studies, substance abuse recovery and wellness, and new technologies. Ryan says that he will be inviting prominent figures in the plumbing and building trades industry to stop by as guests and give their perspectives on a variety of topics. The podcast’s first episode covers cost transparency and its potential use to drive business.

Information about the podcast, including direct links to the episodes, is available on the organization’s GreaterBostonPCA.com Web site. You could also subscribe by searching on iTunes for “Plumbing on the 12s.”

UA members at Tradeswomen Build Nations 2019

Local 12 members attend Tradeswomen Build Nations conference

North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) presented its ninth annual Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in October, and seven Local 12 members, led by training center instructor Kim Garside, participated in the three-day conference. The largest gathering of union tradeswomen in the world, the event presented speakers and workshops that covered topics such as apprenticeship, recruitment, mentoring other women, mental and physical health, safety, getting involved in union leadership, balancing family and work, and financial planning.

“It’s like a pep rally for women in the trades,” is how Local 12 apprentice Kerri Reppucci described the event. “It was great for me to see so many women in the industry.”

Mirroring the rapid rise of women joining the ranks of Local 12 as well as construction trades in the region and across North America, the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference has been growing dramatically. Garside says that in the three years the she has been going to the event, it has nearly doubled in attendance from year to year. The 2019 conference had close to 4,000 women representing all of the union trades, including electrical workers, carpenters, and bricklayers, along with plumbers and gasfitters. The United Association (UA), Local 12’s parent organization, had 400 members alone from the U.S. and Canada.

Among the workshops Reppucci attended was one about preventing and addressing sexual harassment and another about understanding and protecting retirement benefits.

“It can be intimidating as a women to get into the trades,” the third-year apprentice says, adding that the information she was able to learn at the event was helpful. Reppucci notes that the camaraderie and solidarity she experienced at the conference was equally empowering.

Garside especially enjoyed a presentation about how local unions can build and nurture women’s committees. The instructor has chaired a Local 12 group comprised of women members for a few years and says that she was able to bring back some great ideas for the group.

Both of the women have seen the industry evolve firsthand. “It’s a different dynamic today,” says Garside, noting that women were few and far between when she began her career. “More support and resources are available for women today, which is a great thing.”

Reppucci, who began working as a CAD designer 12 years ago, recalls that she rarely saw women in the trades back then. “Now, it’s a different story,” she says. “Yes, it can be rough and taxing on your body. But women should not be afraid.”

The Tradeswomen Build Nations attendees had opportunities to break out and gather with other members of their trade. The UA presented a luncheon for its members. Garside says the organization has done a great job promoting the event and encouraging locals to send their members to the conference.

As evidenced by the growth and success of the conference, what was once a non-traditional career path for women is becoming more conventional. Does Reppucci have any advice for women considering getting into the industry? “Go for it!” she says. “If it’s for you, you’ll do really well.”

Hilliard Baker and HB Plumbing and Heating crew

He’s carrying on the family business

“I thought my summers were terrible when I was a little kid,” says Hilliard Baker, Jr. “Because I had to go to work.”

His school vacations were largely spent toiling alongside his father, Hilliard Baker, Sr., on jobs for his dad’s shop, HB Plumbing and Heating. When he was eight years old, Baker remembers that he and his brothers went with their father to a school under construction in Pembroke. The family arrived in a Winnebago camper that his dad parked on the job site.

“That’s where we slept until the job was finished,” Baker says with a grin. He recalls working into the night under lights powered by his dad’s generator. That’s the way the hungry, old-school plumber rolled, he adds. While the young Baker’s summers may not have been as carefree as he would have liked, he learned a lot about hard work and perseverance from the example his dad set.

“It was great father-son bonding time,” remembers Baker. Maybe his summers weren’t so bad after all.

The elder Baker retired and closed his plumbing shop in 1993, the same year that Baker, Jr. started college at Alabama State. While he was pursuing his studies, Baker’s dad signed his son up for a plumbing apprentice course without telling him.

That meant Baker didn’t get much of a break during college either. Over the summer and between semesters, he would come home to the Boston area and continue his apprentice work and studies.

After college, Baker worked at a few different jobs until returning to plumbing about seven years ago. While working for a non-union shop, he learned about Local 12 and became a member. He finished his apprentice training at the union’s center.

Two years ago, Baker got his master plumber’s license. On the same day, he called Local 12’s business manager, Harry Brett, and told him that he planned to start his own business.

“I promised Harry that I’d become a Local 12 shop,” Baker says. “The union has done a lot for me, and I want to be loyal to them.”

When it came time to come up with a name for his company, there was only one choice: HB Plumbing and Heating.

“I restarted the business because of my dad,” Baker explains with tears welling up in his eyes. Baker, Sr. is now 91 years old and in poor health. “It meant a lot to him. This is for my pops. I want to make him proud. It is still his company in spirit as far as I’m concerned.”

The resurrected HB Plumbing has worked on a couple of laundromats. The shop was also part of Local 12’s crew that responded to the natural gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley. But most of the shop’s work has focused on residential construction projects, such as Olmsted Green in Dorchester.

A mixed-income rental development, the project is bringing 100 two- and three-bedroom townhouses to the community. HB Plumbing is working on 11 of Olmsted Green’s buildings. Baker also has a crew working on the redevelopment of the Whittier Street apartment complex in Roxbury.

HB Plumbing is able to do the jobs as a union shop because Local 12 recently established a residential division and negotiated a lower rate for the specialized work. That enables contractors to work with Local 12 plumbers on residential projects such as the construction of mid-rise, wood-frame apartment buildings.

The affiliation has been a plus for Baker. “When owners and general contractors hear that I’m with Local 12, they know that I’ll have the manpower to take on the job,” he says. It’s not just a question of the quantity of available workers, but also the quality. “We’re always ahead of schedule,” Baker notes. “The Local 12 mechanics are great.”

As for the future, Baker says that he’d like to explore other areas of the industry, including larger commercial work as well as industrial plumbing at sites such as power plants. Local 12’s Brett says the sky is the limit for the enterprising contractor. “Hilliard is doing everything the right way. I can’t say enough about him.”

Baker would like to grow his company—not only for himself and his family, but also for the community.

“It means a lot to me to give people opportunities,” he says, adding that he would like to steer students from voc-tech programs into Local 12. He especially hopes to help inner city kids and people of color along the path.

“They may have great talent,” Baker says. “But they need an opportunity.” After all, not every child can get on-the-job training while spending the summer in a Winnebago with his pops.

Mike Lydon Local 12 training center instructor

Mike Lydon joins Training Center faculty

When Mike Lydon was about twelve years old, he began accompanying his father, who was a welding teacher, to work on Saturdays at the Local 12 Training Center. Many decades later, Lydon is following in his dad’s footsteps.

With the region’s construction industry booming and demand growing for union plumbers, Local 12’s Training Center has been expanding. To accommodate an enrollment that has surged to more than 300 apprentices, the center brought Lydon on in August as its fourth instructor.

His father was instrumental in sending Lydon on the long journey that eventually landed him back at the Training Center. In addition to teaching apprentices the art and science of welding, Jim Lydon, Sr. was a Local 12 plumber and served as a business agent for the union in the 1990s. Mike says that his dad was nurturing and supportive and didn’t so much push him into the trade as gently persuade him.

After going through the apprentice program, himself, Lydon went to work for GBPCA contractor J.C. Cannistraro. He worked his way up to foreman and remained with the company for 20 years.

Lydon would follow happenings at the Training Center and developed friendships with many of its instructors. “In the back of my mind, I always thought becoming an instructor might be something to pursue,” he says. But he followed other paths. For example, Lydon has been the plumbing inspector in the town of Abington for the past 25 years.

In 2006, he joined his brother, Jim Lydon, Jr., to form The Lydon Companies. Jim had already established Lydon Millwright Services, and Mike came on board to expand the business and develop a mechanical services division. He says his father was thrilled to see his sons working together and to see the union-affiliated company working with Local 12.

As with many businesses, the Great Recession threw a curveball at The Lydon Companies, and the shop eventually closed. Mike went back to work as a foreman for J.C. Cannistraro in 2014. While there, he led teams working on projects for Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. He also became the company’s apprentice coordinator. In that capacity, Lydon worked closely with Local 12’s Training Center as a liaison representing the apprentices working on all of the large contractor’s many projects.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with apprentices,” Lydon says. “The position was a natural for me.”

When the Training Center put out the call for a new instructor earlier this year, Lydon seized the opportunity. He initially taught classes in financial literacy for first-year apprentices and water supply for the third-year group.  Lydon says that shifting gears in his career and tackling the role of a teacher has been enjoyable and rewarding, but also challenging.

“I have great respect for the other instructors at the center,” he notes. “It’s a lot of work.”

Lydon says that there are plenty of resources on which he can draw, such as United Association guidelines and materials, as he maps out his classes. But, he adds, instructors are given plenty of leeway to add their own input and personality as they develop and present their daily lesson plans. Lydon is getting used to incorporating technology such as electronic whiteboards, online content, and PowerPoint presentations to his classes. The goal, he says, is to keep the material fresh and engaging for apprentices. He also tries to make the classes as interactive as possible.

“Mike is rising to the challenge,” says Rick Carter, the Training Center’s director. “He is a great addition to our team and brings a wealth of real-world, hands-on experience to his classes.”

For the second session, Lydon is teaching a class about hot water to fourth-year apprentices. A second class, “Standard of Excellence,” is geared to the first-year group. Among the topics covered are the history of the labor movement and the history and evolution of Local 12.

“I’m learning myself,” Lydon says, as he dives into the material and prepares his classes. He finds the union story especially fascinating. “I love the work.”

Local 12 plumbers at the construction site of The Hub on Causeway

Expanding the Garden into Boston’s new Hub

There is a flurry of activity at TD Garden, and it’s not just the Stanley Cup playoffs and Backstreet Boys concerts.

There are towers and buildings being erected alongside and above the sports and entertainment arena on the site of the old Boston Garden as well as an expansion of the venue itself. Collectively known as The Hub on Causeway, the almost 1.9 million-square-foot mixed-use project that Delaware North is building with Boston Properties will include two office towers, a residential tower, a hotel, and a podium that will feature a new entertainment performance space, a Star Market, a 15-screen movie theater, and a number of restaurant and retail locations. Valued at $1.2 billion, the aptly named Hub is transforming Causeway Street into one of the city’s foremost destinations.

“Hub is going to change the neighborhood and help fill some of its needs,” Amy Latimer, TD Garden president, told the Boston Globe in a video interview. “It’s changing the vibe.” It will also change what Latimer refers to as the “street-to-seat” experience for fans coming to the arena.

 “You could live in an apartment here, and almost never have to leave,” says Carl Wall, foreman for American Plumbing and Heating. Between the grocery store, the shops, the offices where residents could work, the eateries, and all of the activities, tenants wouldn’t even need to go outside, he adds. Of course, if they did want to leave, the MBTA’s subway and commuter rail stations would just be an elevator ride away.

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Clear drain

Legislative update: Medical gas and drain cleaning bills


There are two pieces of legislation winding their ways through the State House that are of interest to the industry. One would establish licensing standards for medical gas piping systems, while the other would do the same for drain cleaners. Both of the bills were introduced early in 2019, both have been referred to the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, and both have had public hearings conducted.

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Fenway Center phase-one rendering

First phase of Fenway Center takes shape

In addition to Fenway Park, the Citgo sign, and other landmarks, motorists driving along the Mass Pike near Kenmore Square have a new sight to behold: the Fenway Center. Perched alongside the interstate, it’s pretty hard to miss the 15- and 9-story towers that began to go vertical in early 2019. But the buildings only represent the first phase of the proposed $600 million multi-use complex. If the developers can secure air rights and funding, a second phase would include an additional three buildings to be constructed on a deck that would span across the turnpike.

“It’s an enormous project that would transform the neighborhood,” says Barry Keady, Local 12 business agent. “We are potentially looking at six to eight years of work for our members.”

The two towers now under construction will include 312 apartments, including some affordable units. There will also be street-level retail shops and two below-grade garage floors with 200 parking spaces. The site used to occupy surface parking lots.

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Building one of Boston’s largest, most upscale hotels

THE SWIFTLY EVOLVING SEAPORT DISTRICT WILL BECOME EVEN MORE BUSTLING WHEN THE OMNI BOSTON HOTEL AT THE SEAPORT OPENS IN 2021.

Now under construction, it will bring an additional 1,055 guest rooms to the neighborhood. The 21-story, 218-foottall project will be among the city’s five largest hotels. The Omni Seaport is budgeted at $550 million.

GBPCA contractor American Plumbing and Heating was selected early in the process for the design-assist project and has been working with general contractor John Moriarty & Associates and Cosentini Associates, the plumbing engineer. Design and preliminary work began in the fourth quarter of 2018, and American’s crew began underground installation in early 2019. During the summer, aboveground work began on the site.

Boasting 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space across four levels, the Omni Seaport will feature the neighborhood’s largest ballroom. It will also offer 35,000 square feet of restaurant space, including the upscale French Brasserie. To support all of the dining and entertainment needs, the project will include 13 commercial kitchens.

“That’s quite unique for a hotel,” says Jim Bent, senior project executive for American. “Or any building for that matter.”

Noting that the building occupies virtually the entire footprint and that the site is “tighter than tight,” Bent adds that getting materials delivered is a logistical challenge. He says American uses a “just-in-time” approach to minimize warehousing and avoid tying up capital. Materials are only ordered when they can be run through the company’s large prefabrication shop and the finished systems and assemblies can be delivered to the job site (typically during off hours) to be installed.

“We need to make sure we have everything on the truck that we need for the floor on which we are working each day,” says Bent. In addition to the employees working on the project in the prefab shop, he estimates that there will be 30 Local 12 mechanics on site at the height of construction.

The Omni will include two 21story towers with an 11-story tower in the middle that will feature four “Cabana” levels. A three-story ground-floor podium will anchor the towers. Among the hotel‘s amenities will be a rooftop pool and a spa.

The significance of the project is not lost on the plumbers. “We know that the Omni will take its place as one of Boston’s preeminent hotels,” says Tony Megnia, American’s foreman for the job. “It’s an honor for us to be an intricate part of the construction of this new landmark in the Seaport District.”

According to Bent, the chic hotel will offer high-end finishes in the rooms and throughout the hotel, particularly in its 52 luxury suites. There will be copper faucets and trim in the showers, for example. One of the towers calls for brushed bronze finishes on the fixtures.

“We will be installing elegant soaking tubs and black lavatories,” notes Bent. “Omni is a respected brand with high standards.”

Located adjacent to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, hotel guests will be able to directly access the facility via a tunnel below Summer Street. The walkway will also connect to an MBTA Silver Line station.