On their day off this past Saturday, dozens of union plumbers fanned out across the state to provide free plumbing repairs and inspections to senior, low-income and disabled homeowners as part of Water’s Off. This community service program provides plumbing help to those who otherwise may not be able to afford it, while also raising awareness of the importance of water conservation in Minnesota.
The program began in 1994 when Minnesota’s plumbers’ unions and their union contractors wanted to volunteer to raise awareness of water conservation. 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.
Union volunteers and contractors worked with Community Action Partnership agencies to identify homeowners in need of these repairs. About 75 homeowners in the Twin Cities and Rochester were treated to no-cost assistance from over 100 union volunteers.
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 the state now serves as a model for other 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: three local unions (Minneapolis Plumbers Local 15, Rochester Plumbers Local 6, and Saint Paul Plumbers Local 34); the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association; the Metro Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors Association; three Community Action Partnership agencies (Hennepin County, Ramsey and Washington Counties and Three Rivers); and Rochester Public Utilities.