History of Our International Union

The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Union dates back to the late 1800’s and the emergence of steam power. The expanded use of steam power during this era had a profound effect on the industrial sector – leading to better heated, more efficient factories and plants, improved working conditions, and the creation of thousands of new manufacturing jobs.

The widespread use of steam power also created an entirely new industry – the insulation industry. Skilled insulation mechanics were needed to insulate steam boilers in an effort to conserve the precious energy being piped to residential and industrial facilities. The insulation mechanics who provided this craftsmanship worked almost totally without organized representation. By the end of the Nineteenth Century a few localized associations attempted to look after the interests of their members in specific cities. The first attempt to form a national bond between insulators’ associations came in 1900, when the Salamander Association of New York (which took its name from the reptile that according to legend had a skin that was impervious to fire) sent out an appeal to related crafts in other cities to form a “National Organization of Pipe and Boiler Coverers”. The initial appeal did spark interest, and two years later a much more decisive action was taken by the officers and members of the Pipe Coverer’s Union of St. Louis, Missouri.

The St. Louis group sent out an announcement that it had affiliated with the National Building Trades Council of America, and invited other pipe coverer unions and related trades to join with them in the pursuit of better working conditions, pay that was commensurate with their skills, and the strength that comes from unity. The first appeal of unity was sent to targeted cities where other asbestos workers already were enjoying the benefits of union affiliation such as New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. In all, seven local unions from around the nation responded favorably, and the hard work of laying the foundation for an international union was begun.

With the St. Louis union leading the way, the interested locals met for their first convention on July 7, 1903 in the city of St. Louis. The results of that inaugural convention were impressive – a constitution was drafted and approved; by-laws were adopted; the first president was elected, Thomas Kennedy from Chicago; and a formal name was adopted, the National Association of Heat, Frost and General Insulators and Asbestos Workers of America. September 22nd of that year, the American Federation of Labor issued an official charter designating the Asbestos Workers as a national union.

The year 1910 marked a new plateau for the Union. Several Canadian local unions added their strength to their American brothers. In light of these advances, the Asbestos Workers applied to the AF of L for a new charter, this time as an international union under the name the organization bears today: The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers. The goals of the new International Union were spelled out in the charter: “The object of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers shall be to assist its membership in securing employment, to defend their rights, and advance their interests as workingmen; and by education and cooperation raise them to that position in society to which they are justly entitled.” Since that time, leaders of the International Union took this objective to grow this small group of local unions to over 120 local unions and a membership in excess of 20,000.

After world War II, the International Union’s growth and prosperity was tempered by frightening new evidence that confirmed long-held suspicions by the International Union’s leadership. Workers who were exposed to asbestos died in disproportionate numbers from cancer. The suspicion hung on, but medical records of deceased members often were inaccurate or unavailable, and the asbestos industry itself coldly rejected the union’s charges and did not cooperate in efforts to resolve the tragic problems created by exposure to asbestos fibers. The Asbestos Workers, through their Union fought on, alone. They continued the battle for full disclosure of the truth, and when it was finally successful, the facts proved to be even worse than had been suspected. Medical evidence which was largely financed by the workers themselves, through the International Union, now conclusively proves that exposure to asbestos fibers produces an extraordinarily high risk of contracting cancer.

Another sad aspect of asbestos exposure is that related diseases often do not show up for 20 or 30 years. Since this evidence was proven, the Union has fought for passage of new safety and health laws to help protect its members as well as the public. The Environmental Protection Agency has banned the use of asbestos in the insulation industry in the United States. It has also been banned from use in many other products as well. The International Union continues to provide its members with education and training with the latest state-of-the-art work practices in the handling of any and all materials used in the industry.

Through its long and proud history, the Asbestos Workers International Union has never shied away from adversity or allowed negative factors to impede the achievement of those admirable goals set out in the International charter of 1910. Asbestos Workers members are justifiably proud of the important part that their Union has played in the birth and growth of the modern American and Canadian labor movement. Through the determination and commitment of their leaders from Thomas Kennedy through current President James A. Grogan, the Asbestos Workers International Union continues to strive for employment opportunities, equality in the work place, continuing education, and the safety and wellbeing of the membership.

This article was excerpted from the website of the International
Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos
Workers, www.insulators.org

Local 119 History

Presidents Past and Present

Victor H. Blunt – January 1956 to January 1958
William A. Lucas – April 1958 to May 1959
Alvin V. Dancy – August 1959 to November 1960
Joseph Lavoie –February 1961 to November 1962
Ernie Hryciuk – February 1963 to February 1964
Henry Vanderveen – May 1964 to May 1965
Dennis Dusterbeck – November 1965 to May 1971
Keith Murray – August 1971 to February 1972
Dennis Dusterbeck – May 1972 to May 1973
Earl Newnhawn – August 1973 to August 1974
John Antonyk – November 1974 to August 1977
John Anderson – November 1977 to May 1982
Lorne Kuntz – August 1982 to Fall 1995
Terry Lueke – Winter 1995 to March 1996
Chuck Rudder – March 1996 to March 1999
Jim Wiome – March 1999 to February 2002
Larry Weisbrod–March 2002 to March 2008                                                                Brad Vandale – March 2008 to March 2024                                                              Ken Kerr – March 2024 to Present

Financial/Corresponding Secretaries

Leonard H. Cissell – January 1956 to April 1956
Arnold K. Lawrence – July 1956 to November 1960
Alvin V. Dancy – February 1961 to May 1965
Charles H. Salt – August 1965 to (date unknown)
Joseph E. Lavoie – February 1967 to February 1968
John G. Anderson – May 1968 to February 1974                                                  John Weichel –May 1974 to March 1996
Vince Engel – March 1996 to April 2003
Charles (Chuck) Rudder – May 2003 to March 2024                                        Shayne Chambers – March 2024 to Present


Business Managers

Victor H. Blunt – April 1957 to April 1958
Alvin V. Dancy – August 1959 to November 1960
Charles H. Salt – August 1965 to (date unknown)
Archie Dorn – February 1973 to February 1974
John Weichel –May 1974 to March 1996
Vince Engel – March 1996 to April 2003
Charles (Chuck) Rudder – May 2003 to March 2024                                        Shayne Chambers – March 2024 to Present


Our Office Locations

108 Victoria Avenue East – 1959
2154 Embury Street – 1960
1800 John Street – 1964
1915 Olser Street – 1964
1900 St. John Street – 1965
1791 Rose Street – 1970
9 – 1971 Rose Street – 1972
103 –  1795 Rose Street – 1973
1335 Elphinstone Street – 1974
739 McCarthy Boulevard – 1974-1979
9 – 1630 Albert Street – 1981-1988
1402 Rose Street – 1988-1999
1555 McDonald Street – 1999-2008
444 Quebec St – 2008- Present

Event Date: March 8th, 2024 - March 8th, 2027