Local 601 History
Professional steamfitters in Milwaukee have been organizing to collectively work for better conditions at least as far back as 1883, when National Association of Steam and Hot Water Fitters and Helpers of America Local No. 18 was formed in the city.The United Association also established a steamfitter’s local – No. 24 – in Milwaukee just a decade later on October 6, 1893. By year’s end, the local boasted 24 members in good standing, according to UA records.
On a larger, national stage, the United Association had been created in 1889 and rivaled the National Association – which changed its name to the International Association in 1905 – within the unionized pipe-trades industry. While the International Association was comprised primarily of pipe fitters, the UA was dominated by plumbers, gas fitters and sprinkler fitters. However, in 1912, the International Association agreed to merge into the UA after the American Federation of Labor ruled that a single union, the UA, would represent all of the pipe trades.
With Local 24 lost to history sometime around the turn of the century with no recorded explanation or account of its demise, the UA soon after chartered Local No. 582 on August 27, 1912, as the steamfitters and helpers local in Milwaukee.
United Association Local No. 582, steamfitters and steamfitters’ helpers of Milwaukee, was then instituted with 43 members.
The International Association Local 18 and Local 582 reached an amalgamation agreement on February 22, 1913, to form UA Local 601, effective March 1. During a special meeting on February 25, Local 18’s membership voted to accept the amalgamation proposition from the United Association and gave its executive board “full power to act with U.A. committee,” meeting minutes recorded. With that, 197 steamfitters and helpers of Local 18 paid their $1 initiation fees and were duly initiated into Local 601 three days later during US Steamfitters Local 601’s first meeting on March 4, 1913, joining about 26 members of the UA.
Through was and economic depression the local continued to grow and by 1935 membership was at 243 members. That same year saw the formation of a committee to build a training facility and draft a plan of apprenticeship for training Local 601’s aspiring journeyman. A new building was erected on Teutonia Avenue in Milwaukee at a cost of $22,000 and the first classes were held in December of 1942.
By the 1960’s membership was at 1300 and the local had moved to a larger facility on Burleigh Street in Milwaukee, which was further expanded in 1967. The 70’s and 80’s saw work fluctuate between bad times and good, still the membership grew to 1500 by the 1990’s. Once again the local saw the need for a larger training facility and relocated to 103rd Street in Milwaukee in 1995.
In 1997 Janesville Local 214 merged into Local 601, followed in 1999 by Madison Local 394.
Today at over 100 years old Steamfitters Local 601 represents approximately 2400 members in a 14 county area in Southeastern Wisconsin. While the majority of the local’s membership is comprised of steamfitters and refrigeration/service fitters, it also represents various other classifications including petroleum, warehouse, gas distribution, mainline and station pipeline work throughout the State of Wisconsin.