Local 1 celebrates 125th anniversary

The oldest Insulators Local Union, Local 1, recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. 

Members of HFIAW Local 1 St. Louis partied like it was 1898 on Sept. 9, as they honored the Local's history and looked ahead to the future. 

International leaders and Local Union leaders were among the 850 guests in attendance at the St. Charles Convention Center. 

Business Manager Gary Payeur described the event as memorable. Local 1 group pic of 4

"It was outstanding," he said. "All the feedback was that we held an unbelievable party. The staff did an outstanding job putting it on."

Jerry Fedhaus, retired Local 1 Business Manager and retired Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council, called the celebration a fitting tribute to Local 1 members past and present. 

Those in attendance enjoyed a fun-filled night that consisted of a few speeches, good food, music and the camaraderie only a union membership can create. 

While none of the founding members of Local 1 are still alive, it did not stop members from expressing their gratitude for the sacrifice made by those who came before them in order to make the Local what it is today. 

The Local's history dates back to Dec. 20, 1898, when six men gathered together and charted the first Local Union in what is now the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers. 

Local 1 is not only the oldest Local in the Union but also predates the International, which was founded on July 7, 1903.

The Local has only grown over time into a large organization with 385 active members and 250 retired members. Local 1's jurisdiction encompasses St. Louis, 36 counties in eastern Missouri and 37 counties in western Illinois. 

Payeur believes the original founders of the Local would be amazed at the Local's growth over the years.

"This started with six guys when steam heating went into use," he said. "They would be amazed with our growth and the new technology."

Fedhaus stated that while the insulation technology has changed, the overall mission of the Local has stayed the same -- to ensure members are the safest and most productive workforce in the region.

"The camaraderie has probably not changed since the early years of the Local," he said. "We still work together, socialize together, know each other's families and some even vacation together."

Some of what has changed over the last 125 years are the benefits. 

"In the early 1950s, guys couldn't retire," Fedhaus said. "We started the pension plan in 1958 and today, members can retire with dignity at the age of 55."

In addition to adding retirement benefits, the Local was successful over the years in negotiating for excellent health insurance and the top mechanical insulation wages in the region.

In a union town, the push to better oneself through collective bargaining has allowed one of the oldest building trades Locals in the state to reward its members for a hard day's work.Larkin Local 1

In return, the members have taken care of the Local itself.  The success of Local 1 has been tied to its leadership. 

"Our past business managers and Local leaders have taken care of Local 1 like it was their own family," Payeur said. 

From an increasing future workload to the past expansions of the JATC and a push for political activism to ensure pro-labor legislation benefits, the Insulator's leaders have worked to build a prosperous future.

One of the legislation the Local is pushing at the state level in Illinois is the Mechanical Insulation Energy Audit Act. This bill will require the Environmental Protection Agency to perform a Mechanical Insulation Energy Audit of every public building within the state within 10 years after the legislation is enacted. 

"If this passes, it will lead to mechanical insulation audits of over 8,000 state-owned buildings," Payeur said, adding that the audits would lead to work being performed by not only members of Local 1, but other Locals throughout Illinois and would keep members busy for years to come. 

Local 1 is ready to prosper thanks to its engaged and active membership. The Local has a lot of younger members who are active in not only the Executive Board but also in other aspects of the Local. 

Growing the Local's membership to ensure it can meet the workforce demands of its signatory contractors is a primary goal for the immediate future, as it will allow Local 1 to celebrate future milestones, including its 200th anniversary. 

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