Posts Tagged ‘lead pollution of drinking water’

Lead Piping and the Chicago Plumbers Union in the 1980s

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Many have forgotten, but I didn’t. The removal of lead pipes and lead solder from water piping installations was fought bitterly by Local 130 of the plumbers union in Chicago in the 1980s, prior to federal legislation later in that decade that overruled local legislation and banned such use of lead. This is one clear case in US history in which organized labor defended a dangerous environmental hazard with which we are living today.

Here’s a quote from the Chicago Tribune on March 30, 1986 from an article by Casey Bukro: “More than a decade after other major American cities outlawed lead in drinking water pipes, Chicago officials hope to overcome resistance from the influential plumbers union and enact a similar ban here.” Read in the light of 2016, the rest of the article is damning.

Nowhere in the many lead-in-the-water stories today does one find the role of plumbers unions in fighting the removal of lead from the water piping installations, which was clearly and indisputably documented by the Chicago press in the 1980s.

Unions do many good things, but in some cases such as the above, when they put their own interest above the public interest, they can harm the common good.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The views posted at are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.