This past Saturday, union plumbers made their skills available to senior, low-income, and disabled homeowners through the unions’ annual “Water’s Off” day of service. The plumbers donated their labor while the contractors donated supplies, working with Community Action Partnership agencies to identify homeowners in need of plumbing and water related repairs. About 75 homeowners in the Twin Cities and Rochester were treated to no-cost assistance from over 100 union volunteers.
The program, beginning in 1994, is a joint effort sponsored annually by Minnesota plumbers’ unions and their contractors to give back to the community—and raise awareness of the importance of conserving water. After working with the utility companies, they found that those who could least afford plumbing services were the same homeowners with the largest water bills.
“Giving back to our communities is one of our core union principles, so once we identified the problem, we knew we needed to help,” said David Ybarra, President of the Minnesota Pipe Trades Association, which represents more than 9,000 plumbers, pipefitters, and other skilled union tradesmen and women.
Since the Water’s Off program began in 1994, volunteers have given more than 11,000 hours of their services to over 3,500 households at a value of over $1.5 million. The program developed in Minnesota now serves as a model for similar volunteer programs across the country.
“These volunteers aren’t just fixing a leaky toilet,” said Marcia Paulson, the program manager for Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties. “They’re saving money for homeowners and showing that someone’s looking out for them.”
Water’s Off is made possible by local unions and community partnerships. Specifically, the Minneapolis Plumbers Local 15, Rochester Plumbers Local 6, and Saint Paul Plumbers Local 34 unions, as well as the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association and the Metro Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors Association. Community Action Partnership agencies involved in these public efforts include Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, and Three Rivers counties, as well as Rochester Public Utilities.