The 20,000 members of today’s International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers proudly trace the history of their union to the earliest days of the modern industrial era.
The first attempt to form a national bond between the existing insulators, associations came in 1900, when the Salamander Association of New York City (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.” This initial effort by the Salamander Association’s Joseph A. Mullaney and John Boden met with little enthusiasm. That initial appeal did not spark interest, and two years later a much more decisive action was taken by the officers and members of Pipe Coverers’ Union Local No. 1, of St. Louis, Missouri.
Local No. 1 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 for unity was sent to targeted cities where other Pipe Coverers already were enjoying the benefits of union affiliation-New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit.
The interested locals who had responded to the call for formation of an international union met for their first convention on July 7, 1903. Local No. 1 President J.W. Shearn called the convention to order. Thomas Kennedy of Chicago was elected the first president of the organization. In 1904, at its annual convention, a formal name finally was adopted by the organization- The National Association of Heat, Frost and General Insulators and Asbestos Workers of America.
A massive, national open-shop campaign was waged, one that was at least equal to the initiatives being pushed by these same interests today. But the early leaders of the Insulators knew from the beginning that they would have to fight for mere survival, and this determination was expressed in the earliest conventions by providing funds for organizers.
In 1910 several Canadian local unions added their strength to their American brothers and the organizations name became The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers. Through the years, the International has enjoyed exemplary leadership from its elected officers-from the first President, Thomas Kennedy; to the 43-year tenure of Joseph A. Mullaney; to Carlton Sickles, who served as secretary-treasurer for 21 years before holding the office of president for another 13 years; to the late Alfred E. Hutchinson. The current General President is James McCourt.
At the 2007 Convention the organizations name became the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers.