By TIM ROWDEN
Earth City, MO – As schools resume fall classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many struggling to come up with the necessary funding or equipment to do so as safely, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 has stepped in, making plexiglass dividers and desk-side water bottle holders to help the Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt, Pattonville, Wentzville and Fox C-6 school districts provide a safe learning environment for their students and teachers.
“COVID-19 has brought on one of the biggest challenges we were faced with and that is the reopening of schools,” said John O’Mara, business manager/secretary-treasurer of Local 562.
As the pandemic has raged on since mid-March, Local 562 has had to figure out how to reopen its training center and keep its instructors and students safe through social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer and plexiglass dividers.
As they were building dividers for their own classes, the union was made aware that area school districts needed the same dividers.
O’Mara said Local 562 reached out to many of the districts, and Francis Howell, Pattonville (which has since moved to a virtual learning model), Fort Zumwalt, Fox and Wentzville all asked for assistance.
The result was a massive production effort that also helped out-of-work members.
“We decided to mass-produce these dividers and the only way we could do this was to bring our out-of-work members to help,” O’Mara said. “It was a win/win situation because we were able to help our community and in turn put a few members to work and give them a paycheck.
“Times are different, but we always want to make our community better and stronger,” O’Mara said. “The schools in our area are some of the best, and we want nothing but the best for them and the future students that we hope to see in trade schools someday. But these schools also helped our members, by giving our members a chance at a paycheck. When we all work together the outcome is the best it can be.”
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 is made up of over 4,000 members and has nearly 3,000 out on jobs daily.
“We are honored to build our city every day,” O’Mara said. “Whether it be SLU hospital, Busch Stadium, Enterprise Center, school buildings, or general repairs to buildings throughout Missouri, we show up ready to take on new challenges.
“We wish all students, teachers, and staff heading back to school in the upcoming weeks a happy, healthy, and safe school year.”