UA Local 488 was founded on November 7, 1904.
Before Alberta even became a province, members of Local 488 were hard at work and paving the way for generations to come. What started as only a few members has grown into one of the largest piping unions in North America. Local 488 has a proud, long-standing history in Alberta and we have been vital in building and shaping this province. The resources and industry in our jurisdiction have created a massive ripple effect on the economy across the entire country for decades.
A historical view over the decades
By the end of 1905, Edmonton had six miles of sewers, 125 miles of water mains, and as the city grew, so did the demand for the expertise of our Plumbing, Gas, Welding, and Steam-fitting members. Wages rose to the modest sum of $0.75 cents an hour by 1912, and the workweek was reduced from 54 to 48 hours.
In 1923, construction of the Viking gas field pipeline heralded a new era of prosperity for Local 488 members. There was plenty of work to do, and wages were higher than ever. That prosperity would change, and the good times were all too brief with the onset of The Great Depression. Local 488’s membership dropped to just 35 members, and wages fell.
Ironically, WWII turned things around again. Edmonton became the staging point for the construction of the Alaska Highway, and Local 488 members went back to work. In 1946, we became the first Edmonton union to achieve the 40-hour workweek.
The discovery of oil in 1947 at the famous Leduc #1 changed Alberta and Local 488 forever. The 1950s were boom times for Local 488, with refineries and power plants springing up across Edmonton and northern Alberta. By 1957 we had 1,200 members and this substantial growth forced us to hire our very first business agent.
During the 1960s, Local 488 added health and welfare, and pension plans. Today, thanks to their early efforts, hundreds of retired union members enjoy the security that those plans brought to their lives.
Alberta continued to boom in the 1960s and 1970s with the early development of the Athabasca oil sands. During the construction of the Syncrude mega project, 2,000 UA members were at work on the site. The 1970s also saw the inception of the Supplementary Benefit Trust Fund, which has provided benefits to members that include educational bursaries for members’ children and renewal of gas and welding tickets.
The turn of the millennium brought much needed economic recovery to the province with several mega projects like the expansion of Syncrude and Petro-Canada, the Shell Scotford upgrader in Fort Saskatchewan, and the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine project. This resulted in Local 488 hitting an all- time high in membership and brought hundreds of skilled tradespeople from across the country to support these massive endeavors.
The UA continued to prosper from new investment in the oilsands with the likes of ConocoPhillips, CNRL, and Kearl Lake along with downstream refining projects such as the expansion at Scotford and the North West Refinery. Throughout the past decade we saw our skyline change with the city of Edmonton’s new and exciting Ice District and Roger’s Arena. The construction of the iconic Stantec Tower, the Marriott Hotel, and Roger’s arena in the heart of downtown Edmonton showcased our world class mechanical trades like never seen before.
Today, Local 488 is Alberta’s largest construction union and we are proud of our history. The diverse skillset within our combination Local is prevalent nearly everywhere you could imagine. Our members have provided Albertans with essential basic needs such as heat, water and sanitation services. We have built numerous schools, hospitals, housing developments, and businesses. In every corner of Alberta and beyond, we have laid thousands of kilometers of pipelines. Most notably, we helped build the economic powerhouse that is Athabasca’s oilsands which is coupled with massive downstream refineries in the industrial Heartland of Alberta. Our union has been here since the beginning, our membership has remained resilient through prosperous and tumultuous times, and we will continue to provide the most skilled piping professionals for decades to come.