Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Plumbers Focus on Green Technology for Their Future

As we get set to mark Earth Day this week, it’s a good time to note one of the many ways the union movement is taking up the challenge to clean up our environment and create good jobs. Many building and construction unions are hard at work educating their members on the best ways to use energy efficient materials and other skills they will need to fill the green jobs of the future.

The Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) has identified green technologies as a prime focus for the future of the union and the plumbing industry. Such technologies use less energy and natural resources than traditional technologies, have minimal impact on the environment and use materials that can be reused or recycled.

UA members are using these innovative new technologies in construction and retrofitting in both commercial and residential projects. The union has developed numerous unique approaches directed toward helping members and contractors gain leadership in this area.

UA President William Hite says the green future includes:

Everything from energy efficient building practices, water conservation efforts in the plumbing industry and the usage of environmentally compatible building practices and materials…. I believe the opportunities for the UA in this relatively new field are enormous.

Last year, the UA unveiled its Green Training Trailer that is touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. The 40-foot-long mobile classroom provides an overview of a number of power-generating technologies, including fuel cells, wind power and solar systems. It also covers new water treatment processes.

Visitors to the trailer gain hands-on experience with these technologies and can take classes leading toward a green awareness certification. Take a virtual tour of the trailer at the UA website, www.ua.org and click on “The UA has Gone Green” icon.

UA also is a founding member of the Green Mechanical Council, an alliance of manufacturers, skilled professionals, universities and other organizations dedicated to promoting environmentally friendly equipment and processes that maximize energy efficiency, conserve water and use renewable and sustainable fuel sources. The council—called “GreenMech”—conducts education and training activities.

(In future postings, we will report on other actions union members are taking at every level to clean up the environment and create good jobs.)

The AFL-CIO strongly backs efforts to combat global warming, achieve energy independence and revitalize American manufacturing in the process. In 2007, the AFL-CIO Executive Council issued a statement that said, in part:

It makes sense to seek energy independence through investments in infrastructure, clean coal/carbon sequestration, advanced technology vehicles and their key components, alternative energy resources (solar, thermal, wind, biomass, etc.) and energy-efficient buildings and appliances. Each of these should be linked to domestic investment and production.

To help working Americans prepare for the next generation of jobs, the AFL-CIO created the Center for Green Jobs. The center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.

--James Parks, AFL-CIO

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