Labor-backed plumbing update loses in a tie


Many of Labor’s friends abandoned workers to defeat the Labor-endorsed plumbing code update

NO MATTER THE CHALLENGE, Rod Hudson (on ladder) and Ken Berkholz (kneeling), both plumber members of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, install venting running through every floor, ultimately to the roof. This is only one of many examples of what trained union plumbers tackle difficult jobs expertly and efficiently to ensure that building owners get their jobs done on time, cost effectively and right the first time. – Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 photo

On a tie vote, St. Louis Aldermen voted last week not to authorize a bill updating the city’s existing plumbing code. The bill was supported by Organized Labor, union and non-union contractors, the Plumbing Industry Council and the Missouri Association of Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors for its benefits to the community and local workers.

However, in a disappointing move, many aldermen normally considered supportive of Labor and public safety issues voted against the measure.

Sponsored by Alderwoman Sarah Wood Martin (11th Ward), Board Bill 39 received 12 “yes” votes and 11 “no” votes. Alderman Tina (Sweet- T) Pihl (17th Ward) voted “present,” which is counted as a “no” vote, thus creating a tie that torpedoed the bill. A majority vote was needed for passage.

The defeated bill would have updated and modernized the city’s outdated 2009 plumbing code.

An alternative bill, Board Bill 37, to kill the existing St. Louis code entirely and replace it with the International Plumbing Code, was supported by the city’s Building Division and introduced by Alderman Joe Vaccaro, normally considered to be a friend of Labor. Labor opposed the bill.

Vaccaro’s bill was defeated twice –first by a vote of the city’s Committee of Plumbing Review and then by the Public Safety Committee. Both agencies supported Labor-endorsed BB 39 as more beneficial to the city.

SKILLED UNION PLUMBERS, James Grayson (left)installing a 15” storm drain and Scott Huesemann (right) fabricating piping for floor drains, are members of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 using the expertise and knowledge to meet all the city’s existing plumbing codes on the new St. Louis City SC soccer stadium going up in downtown St. Louis. Their skills, like all the union tradesmen on the project, ensure the tens of thousands of fans and teams will be safe because has work done expertly and completely. – Left Photo by Jason Summers; Right photo by Ryan Broyles

It should also be noted that the non-Labor supported BB 37 was never officially submitted to the Committee of Plumbing Review, whose four St. Louis residents are plumbing professionals, licensed journeymen, master drain layers and master plumbers who deal with code issues every day. Bypassing the committee deprived the city of important technical, citizen and minority voices in this industry vital to public health.

In a report to the Public Safety Committee, the Committee of Plumbing Review said it rejected the proposed International Plumbing Code and added a critical note – that the city Building Division was not following established rules when it intentionally bypassed the Committee of Plumbing Review.

As a result of this defeat by the aldermen, a new effort will have to be made to update the city’s plumbing code. Observers expect that this fight will happen all over again, as Alderman Vaccaro has been trying to enact the international standard for the past three years at the request of the Building Department, which has steadfastly refused to take the issue before the Committee of Plumbing Review.

Unfortunately, previously Labor-supported alderpersons are already talking about re-filing the non-Labor, non-locally supported bill.

“Our unions were watching this vote very closely, as Alderwoman Martin’s BB 39 was a good bill for working people,” St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White said. “We are very concerned about what’s going on in the city and plan to do what they do in Jefferson City – track voting records on pro- and anti-worker bills to determine who is voting against working folks’ issues, which will help us determine just who will get our support in the future.”

“We were sorely disappointed in the final vote at the Board of Alderman,” said John Stiffler, St. Louis Building Trades Council executive secretary-treasurer. “When this comes up again – and it will – we hope our Labor-friendly aldermen who voted against this bill will reconsider and support workers like we have supported them in the past.”

In letters to the Public Service Committee, charged with hearing both bills, the St. Louis Building Trades Council and the St. Louis Labor Council characterized the adoption of the International Plumbing Code called for in BB 37 as an “unnecessary and potentially harmful and disrupting change to the city’s current practice.”

They noted that updating the city’s existing Uniform Plumbing Code as called for in BB 39 would not only be beneficial to city residents but would allow the code to continue to be updated into the future.


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