Teamsters Hold Eighth Annual Pipeline Conference

Pipeline Conference

This week the Teamsters Building Material and Construction Trade Division hosted their eighth annual pipeline conference in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Over 100 business agents, stewards, and rank-and-file pipeliners attended the first pipeline conference held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This conference is great because it allows us to share ideas and learn from one another on how we can promote our craft, organize new companies and negotiate fantastic collective bargaining agreements,” said Bubba Davis, Teamsters Building Material and Construction Trade Division Director. “Our pipeline work is ensuring our nation’s energy independence, work that is critical to all of our futures.”

Teamsters have worked in the pipeline industry since the union’s inception. Famous construction projects like the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, the Big Dig, the Panama Canal and the New York City Subway System were all built with Teamster labor.

Today, the Teamsters represent over 4,000 workers in a variety of jobs on pipeline construction projects all over North America.

“Some of the bigger upcoming projects Pipeline Teamsters are involved in include the Williams Regional Energy Access Expansion, the Driftwood LNG Pipeline, the Gulf Run Pipeline Project and the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline,” said David LaBorde, Teamsters National Pipeline Director.

John Johnson is a Teamster employed by Precision Pipeline. He’s been in the craft for over two decades.

“Pipeline to me is my life, it’s basically what I’ve done all my life,” said Johnson. “25 years is a long time and it basically becomes your home away from home. The people you work with, the people you meet, the motels you stay in or the house you rent – you meet friends and basically look out for each other. It’s just a big family.”

One issue affecting the craft is the importance of recruiting the next generation of pipeliners, and a number of Teamsters working on this issue addressed the attendees. The Labor Management Cooperation Trust (LMCT), an organization composed of Teamsters and pipeline employers, has created a number of training programs to assist prospective members with getting the necessary certifications and licenses to work in the craft. The Teamsters operate educational facilities in California, Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia which have trained thousands of pipeline workers.  

Another issue where the Teamsters have joined forces with industry is combatting the horrors of sexual slavery. Local unions have partnered with companies to train members on how to spot victims of human trafficking and respond appropriately so their abusers can be apprehended by law enforcement.

“Our organization seeks to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking, bus and energy industries to combat human trafficking as part of their regular jobs,” Ashley Smith, Director of Energy Operations at Truckers Against Trafficking.

A number of pipeline contractors – including representatives from Precision, Enbridge, Dunn Transportation and Springing, PeBeen, Rockford Corp., Michels and the Pipeline Contractors Association – addressed the attendees to discuss the most pertinent issues facing the industry. Davis emphasized that labor unions and employers in the pipeline industry have long-standing collaborative relationships.

“These contractors are coming to the Teamsters and saying they want to work with us, because they know what we can do,” said Davis. “We may have disagreements at the bargaining table, but at the end of the day we’re partners and we’re working together – not just on contracts, but on the issues affecting our craft and the communities where we work.”