Local 455 was established on November 5, 1904, when President William Merrick and Secretary Treasurer L.W. Tilden inked their signatures on the United Association Charter. Although we started with 27 members, by 1908 our count had dropped to eight. But in a few short years, with the rise of larger industrial projects, including many for Northern States Power Utility, the trend began to reverse.
Despite a sharp decline in union membership nationwide, our membership remained strong in the 1920s. Records show this can be attributed to the construction of the NSP High Bridge Power Plant in 1924, as well as the Ford Motor Assembly Plant in 1925.
In the 1930s, the Great Depression brought about a tremendous amount of unemployment, causing our membership to drop from 76 to 68. Nevertheless, Local 455 members held onto jobs at several well-known Minnesota landmarks, including the Whirlpool plant, Schmidt brewery, Hamms brewery, and Waldorf Paper Company, to name a few.
Throughout the 1940s, World War II brought a great deal of work to our jurisdiction, including the Arden Hills Arms Plant. Between this project, the groundbreaking of 3M’s main plant, and other government contracts, our members stayed busy. In 1944, we registered a set of apprenticeship standards with the state, which made our longstanding apprenticeship program official. On July 25, 1947, following a national trend of increasing market share and membership, we merged with metal trades workers and added Ramsey, Washington, and Dakota counties to our jurisdiction.
The Korean conflict and work at power plants and breweries kept our members employed during the first half of the 1950s. We also began work at Great Northern Oil Refinery in Pine Bend. By the end of the 1950s, union representation in the U.S. was at an all-time high with 32 percent of the non-agricultural labor force holding union membership. In 1957, we established the Local 455 credit union to serve our 492 members.
Work in our jurisdiction remained in steady through the 1960s, partly thanks to the Kennedy administration and the flood of 1965. One of the largest projects we worked on was the clean up of Metro Waste. As a result of wage increases, our members decided to start investing in important fringe benefits such as the Pension Fund, Health & Welfare Fund, the Vacation Fund, and apprenticeship training.
In 1976, many Local 455 members enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime in the construction of the Alaska Pipe Line. Throughout a four-year period, we had 135 pipefitters on the project. By the end of the 1970s, our membership had reached 831.
The 1980s saw several significant projects for Local 455, including the Koch Oil Refinery, Ford Plant expansion, District Energy, and Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant. In 1983, we were awarded the Waldorf Paper Steam Line project, which required 101 of our steamfitters and went on record as the country’s longest steam line. Between 1987-89, however, Local 455, along with local unions throughout the country, experienced unemployment rates between 10 to 15 percent. Despite a lack of work, our membership reached 959 as the decade came to a close.
Throughout the mid-1990s, we were able to keep almost all of our members employed on local projects, including work at the Koch Oil Refinery, Ashland Oil Refinery, and Prairie Island site, to name a few. In 1994-95, the large capital projects in our jurisdiction came to an end, and many of our members traveled to other parts of the country for work. But thanks to projects such as the University of Minnesota power plant, the turbine rebuild at Prairie Island, and large commercial projects in St. Paul, we were able to keep our 1,151 members employed in the late 1990s.
Work started off strong in the early 2000s with projects at District Energy sites, the Ramsey County Jail, the Federal Bureau of Apprehension, and major expansions at Flint Hill’s oil refinery. The remainder of the decade, however, was marked with varying levels of unemployment as a result of the Great Recession.
In 2012, after things had turned around, we acquired Hillcrest Investments. This acquisition gave Local 455 ownership of the largest privately owned tract of land in St. Paul. In 2014, after deciding to move our training in-house, we purchased a 64,000-square-foot building on L’Orient Street in St. Paul and remodeled it to become a 100,000-square-foot office, meeting hall, and training and certification center.
Eager to move from our rented space, we took occupancy of our new facility in 2015. Since then, we have continued to set the standard in training while providing the highest skilled steamfitters/pipefitters for the job.