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The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada or "UA" as it is commonly known is a multi-craft union whose members are engaged in the fabrication, installation and servicing of piping systems. There are approximately 326,000 highly-skilled United Association members who belong to over 300 individual local unions across North America.

The United Association has been training qualified pipe tradesmen longer than anyone else in the industry. The UA boasts the premier training programs available in the industry today, including five-year apprenticeship programs, extensive journeyman training organized instructor training, and certification programs.
History of Local 56

Halifax Local Union #56 was granted its UA charter in August 1908, as a Plumbers & Steamfitters combination local in the building, construction and metal trades divisions.

In August 1941 the charter was revised so as to include marine pipefitters and helpers because our members often branched out into the Dockyards as a means of sustaining steady employment.  In early 1954, the Dockyard Trades and Labour Council became a bargaining agent for all trades in the Dockyard.  The pipe shop members could not have Local 56 as their bargaining agent.  As they wanted to remain UA members, they applied for and received a charter and formed UA Local 282.

It is of interest to note that Local 56 kept pace with the rise and fall of the fortunes of Halifax in the 20th century. Halifax being a military city prospered in war times and suffered economically in peacetime, resulting in good and bad times in the work force. Historian John G. Reid suggests that the Great Depression that swept the country in the thirties began as early as 1920 in Nova Scotia and lasted through the thirties until the start of World War II.

The second half of the century proved to be much better as navy ship building and an industrial base seemed to inspire Halifax to become the financial center of Atlantic Canada.  The expansion of the Esso Refinery (Imperial Oil), the construction of the Halifax International Airport, high rise office buildings in in downtown Halifax, at least two major shopping centers and major university expansions all contributed to the rise of union membership.  Local 56, with its strong leadership was able to rise to the challenge of supplying top trades people for these projects.


President:  Tim Murphy
Vice President: Stephen Brown
Business Manager:  Darren Muise
Business Agent:  Michael Doyle
Training Coord:  Greg Pope
Membership/IT Data Support: Lorena Forrest
Admin Assistant: Doris Theriault


Stephen Brown
Gary Slaunwhite
James Kaiser
Greg Pope
John Topple
The first cash sheets for August 9, 1908 stated that Local 56 had 21 members and stayed that way until 1910 when they had 100 members.  Membership rose and fell with the economy - 58 members in 1929, 100 members in 1931, and then down to a low of 51 members in 1935.  Local 56 did not have over 100 members again until 1944.  In the 1950's things started to look up for the Union movement as a whole because the economy began to improve somewhat, by 1960 Local 56 had grown to 334 members.

During the first fifty years of Local 56 all officers volunteered their time and even in good times it was difficult to collect union dues and organize new members, everything was done during off hours, the workdays and workweeks were much longer in the first part of the century.  Members were on the honour system to make sure their dues were paid.

Two important events which greatly contributed to the great success of Local 56 in the second fifty years of its history were the creation of the so-called "Rand Formula", whereby an employer is required to deduct union dues from all members of the bargaining unit, those dues go to the union "check off" as it is referred to.  The second event was the decision to elect a full time business agent, Jim Burke, who took office in 1958.  Local 56 had really entered the modern era.

Local 56 has been truly blessed over the past 100 years to have had officers who, through their perseverance, have made Local 56 one of the most respected locals in Canada and throughout the UA.  Former officers William Hamm, W. B. Murphy, Jack Fults, Larry Ward, Maurice McCarthy and Jim Henley all deserve a great amount of credit for bringing the Local to this level.  One person that deserves a special mention for his outstanding dedication and contributions to Local 56 is George W. Betts.  Brother Betts served as Financial Secretary from 1929 until 1961, when ill health forced him to step down.  It was then that Maurice McCarthy assumed the duties of financial secretary as well as Business Agent, becoming the first Business Manager of Local 56.

From its humble beginnings in 1908, Local 56 has grown to become a modern, progressive organization, dedicated to training and organizing the finest trades people, to meet the needs of our clients and partners in the growing construction and industrial fields of the modern day piping industry.  Our modern training facility consists of the most up-to-date shops for welding, rigging,plumbing, steamfitting/pipefitting, sprinkler fitting, gas, refrigeration and HVAC.  The Training Centre also provides a wide range of safety courses including WHMIS, first aid, fall arrest, confined space, pipeline safety as well as CSTS.  Again our members have been our best assets for our continuing success.

Written by:  John Thomas, Past-President, UA Local 56

The Local 56 Training Centre

In 1992 United Association (UA) Local 56 built a combined administration/training facility and meeting hall. Prior to this, training was limited and usually done on an as needed basis. Space was rented from the local Community College, which was costly and constantly put a strain on local training funds. There was no access to welding shops, which was needed to provide upgrades, and pre-test practicing was non-existent.

In early 1993, the new building was completed with a welding shop and classroom space. With these facilities the quality of our welders improved through continued availability of upgrade training, as well as providing accessibility to members for practice.

These training facilities served Local 56 well for ten years, however in 2002 it became obvious that the present training facilities were no longer adequate to meet our needs. With a solid commitment to maintain the UA philosophy of continuous training to protect and grow our market share, a change was required. An increase in membership and greater demands from industry for specialty training called for a larger facility.

In 2002, Local 56 completed an 11,000 square foot Training Centre. This building has an 18 booth welding shop, a pipe/plumbing and sprinkler training area, a residential mock module for in floor heat installation, as well as plumbing and fixture installation training. The building also has two large classrooms (including a computer lab), and four offices.

Training grants, through our Canadian and International Training Funds, allowed for the purchasing of all major equipment necessary to provide ongoing and comprehensive training programs. In the face of a growing need for re-certification and training requirements in the service industry, the old welding shop was converted into an HVAC/Refrigeration training and gas lab.

At this time, in 2002, a legal Training Trust was established to protect all training assets and keep the training assets separate from the Local 56 Union assets (should any legal action become a threat). A Board of Trustees was also created, to oversee all aspects of training, and comply with the provisions of the trust.

UA Local 56 training programs have grown with increasing demand as new technology is constantly entering the industry. This growth has enabled us to maintain the UA philosophy of providing the best training and offering the most efficient trades people and apprentices in all sectors of the piping and mechanical services industry.

Organize Your Worksite

Every worker has the legal right to be represented by a union.

When employees band together and vote to become part of a union, they use their collective strength to ensure that they are treated and paid fairly by their employer, and that their worksite will be a safe one.

The principle is simple - together, employees are stronger than they are as individuals.

If you and your fellow employees are not represented, or if you are represented by an alternative labour organization, we encourage you to talk with our organizers.

They're used to helping workers organize. And they understand how sensitive this subject can be. We promise they'll honour your need for privacy.

Take a positive step toward a better working life.

Email us at:, or call anyone in our Organizing Department at phone (902) 466-9920.  We would be most pleased to discuss the logistics of organizing with you.