Story Behind The Sign

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Reprinted with permission from Business First
February 4th, 2002 Edition

Union plumbers and steamfitters have joined labor management to expand their Western New York customer base.

Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 22 and the Western New York Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Inc. will now market their services as the Piping & Service Industry Coalition. The coalition includes more than 50 companies and contractors, along with nearly 1,000 union craftspeople represented by the plumbing union.

"The only time we got together was to negotiate or settle a grievance," said Michael McNally, business manager for the plumbing union. "There was always a barrier. We had to become a team to recapture our marketplace. We know what our strong points are but need to be aware of our shortcomings."

To determine those shortcomings, the coalition has enlisted Cornell University to survey 200 area companies. Contractors, development firms and school districts will be encouraged to address questions concerning the coalition's image in Western New York.

"Perception is a big part of the problem. If we can understand how we are perceived, we can overcome it," McNally said.

"This group is not project labor agreement based. We know we can be competitive. We just want a shot, not just to be used exclusively. We don't go on jobs to cause problems. We want the piping industry to move ahead. The perception is that we are lazy, expensive and big trouble. That's not the case," he said.

Joseph Kandefer, former president of the Western New York Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Inc. (who also heads M.K.S. Plumbing Corp.), said the coalition will allow contractors to work in a larger area.

"It's not only union management, it's management between the different trades that is coming together," he said. "By just sitting down with the coalition shows that we are breaking down those perceptions. To have this sign of solidarity is important. It can serve as an example for greater strength."

That strength could also translate into more savings for consumers.

"Those in our industry need to know our association is working together to provide those services that are desired by our customers and a better product than our competition," said Peter Seager, president of J. Horace Seager & Son Inc., a commercial and industrial plumbing contractor in Niagara Falls.

"It creates a new idea that there is urgency to develop a dependence on one another with the common bond being the customer and customer satisfaction," said Kevin Reilly (chief executive officer) of John W. Danforth Co. Inc., a general contractor for mechanical systems in Tonawanda. "We are trying to talk and communicate on a regular basis. We need to focus on our highly-skilled work force and need to stay productive."

The coalition's web site contains a list of union contractors and provides information on the union, its membership and training programs at its Orchard Park facility.

For more information, visit