It’s no small coincidence that William Hite, president of the United Association of Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Technicians (UA), received the first ever Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council AFL- CIO George Meany Award. After all, Meany, the award’s namesake was a plumber himself.
Hite serves the UA and its 370,000 members as general president. He’s a third generation member of UA and has been a member for 37 years, but that’s not why he received the award on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at Chicago’s Sheraton Hotel & Towers at the Inaugural George Meany Award Gala.
Speaker after speaker, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, took the stage to tell the audience about Hite’s leadership and roles in UA initiatives to grow interest in the trades.
For years, Hite has worked to bring veterans into the trades through the UA’s Veterans in Piping Program, which helps get service members into trades positions at no cost. This event showcased a renewed partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, which features approximately 5 million troops with merit badges, including electrician and plumbing badges.
“Through scouting, we’re going to raise awareness about what the trades (can do for scouts),” said event chairman and president of Bishop Plumbing Robert Melko as he was introducing Hite at the event.
With EMSI showing that 53 percent of trade workers in the U.S. were 45 or older in 2012 and 18.6 percent were between the ages of 55 and 64, it is apparent that new apprentices and eventually professionals are needed in America’s trades.
As Hite said in accepting the award, he wants to show scouts that having a high level of skill and professionalism in the trades can not only make them a great living, it can make the American Dream a reality.