Local 16, A Century of Pride

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The following was taken from the 100th Anniversary booklet.  Local 16 celebrated their 100th Anniversary on August 1, 2011.

On August 1, 1911, the Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 16 in San Francisco, California was chartered as a member of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers International Union, (formerly known as Asbestos Workers International Union).  All the work at that time generated after the 1906 earthquake was primarily building and marine.  There was also a Local Chartered in Sacramento; Local 25, which was subsequently merged into local 16 eventually creating the San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fresno Charter.  Local 25 is now the Detroit, Michigan local.  Prior to WWII there were approximately 80 Local 16 members.  Local 16's membership grew exponentially in the postwar era and into the 50's, 60's, and 70's due to a large volume of new construction and petrochemical industry growth.  Local 70 Mare Island merged with Local 16 in the early 90's.  Over the years Local 16 apprentice training has been upgraded and adapted to changes in applications of new materials and finishes in the insulation industry.

Since 1911, the Insulators and Allied Workers Local 16 membership has expanded across 2 states (Northern California and Northwestern Nevada) covering a total of 57 counties and now represents over 1,000 active insulator, abatement, firestop members, retirees, and their families.  We are proud of our work to continually strive for equality in the work place and continue to move forward in the labor movement.  Nicknames of our trade consist of Rag Wrappers, Laggers, and Pipe Coverers, to name a few.

The Insulators and Allied Workers Local 16 was in the forefront of the health related issues with asbestos as well as developing asbestos abatement training, and continues to safely abate asbestos and replace it with safer and more environmentally friendly insulation materials.  Local 16 members perform work in the firestop industry, which is constantly adapting and developing to prevent fires from spreading in buildings, saving lives. 

We are so proud to share our 100th Anniversary with members, retirees, their family members, and the colleagues we work with - in the government, public and private sectors.


A Mystery Worth Pondering... The Salamander in our Union's Logo

Every person who has ever received the coveted membership card of the Asbestos workers is familiar with the symbol of a salamander perched atop piping over a roaring flame.  Many members down through the years have asked or have been asked "Why are you barbecuing that lizard?  What does that have to do with insulation or asbestos?"

To be accurate, the salamander is not a lizard.  Nor is it a reptile.  It is an amphibian resembling a lizard but scaleless and covered with a soft, moist skin.  Legend has it that the salamander is impervious to fire.  These creatures hibernate and often hide in hollow trees or wood piles in the winter.  They coil themselves up and remain in a torpid state until the spring.  For this reason they can often be found hiding within fire wood.  When the wood is added to a fire, the hidden salamander awakens with only enough time to put forth a quick defense and escape.  This is more than likely why the salamander has the reputation of being impervious to fire.  Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary gives as its first reference to "salamander"; a mythical animal having the ability to endure fire without harm.  The word "salamander" is thought to come from the Greek, meaning fireplace.

Meanwhile the association between the salamander and asbestos dates back in history.  It is reported that during Marco Polo's travels, he encountered the Tartars who possessed asbestos cloth that was cleansed with fire.  Marco Polo is said to have inquired about the material and was told that the material came from "Salamanders Wool".  As an insulating material, we know that asbestos protects building materials through its imperviousness to fire.  It takes very little leap in logic to associate asbestos and the salamander.  Out of the mythical, legendary and historic references to asbestos and the salamander, it is only natural that the salamander would begin to find favor as a symbol of power, prestige, nobility, fraternity, religion and profession.  Many coats of arms depicted fire-breathing dragons very similar in appearance to a salamander with wings added.

With regards to the Asbestos Workers logo, the first reference dates back to before the formal founding of our union.  It is believed to have been the symbol of the Knights of Labor's Salamander Association of New York City, which made the first effort to organize insulators at the end of the 19th Century.  The original logo and any record of its creations or their reasoning have lost over the decades.

For the present, however we can only speculate and enjoy the mystery surrounding the use of the salamander as our symbol for the Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (formerly Asbestos Workers).

May it survive for another 100 years.