MCAA Story

MCAA…Going on 125 Years – and Stronger than Ever

On June 1, 2013 the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago celebrated its 125-year anniversary. That’s 125 years of adding value to its members’ businesses by delivering the utmost in quality services, representation and leadership – quite an achievement! On behalf of MCAA we sincerely congratulate the MCA Chicago. President-Elect Chuck Fell and Senior Vice President/Treasurer Steve Dawson joined MCA Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago to present them with a commemorative plaque at their Anniversary Gala.

While Chicago was first, they weren’t alone in representing the industry for long. As word of their efforts spread, interest in creating master fitters associations sprang up in other cities. Master Fitters soon began to realize that what could make a difference at the local level could also make a tremendous impact by uniting nationally.

And so, in 1889 the National Association of Master Steam and Hot Water Fitters first came into being. The founding members forged an institution through which like-minded Master Fitters – contractors – could resolve common problems and address ongoing concerns.

When a dispute arose, whether with labor, suppliers or customers, contractors had been on their own to resolve it. Innovations in materials and work processes were occurring throughout the industry, but contractors only found out about these developments by chance, or if they themselves were the innovators. They could sense the growing complexity of their trade but could not define any concrete boundaries of professionalism.

They also watched from the sidelines as steam fitters organized themselves into local offshoots of the powerful Knights of Labor, professionals in the art of collective bargaining. On the other side of the table was the lone Master Fitter, the owner of the heating shop.

These new associations put the industry on an entirely new path – one that would benefit not just business owners, but as time went by, labor, future professionals and even the public.

The first convention of the national association took place September 10-12, 1889, at Chicago’s Leland Hotel. George Reynolds, first association secretary, declared, “The public will reap just as many benefits from the Master Fitters working in harmony as the Fitters will themselves, and the growth of the art demands such harmonious work.”

That very first meeting was attended by 70 contractors from 35 cities and 20 states. By and large they were the “giants” of the industry of their time. The primary order of business at the Chicago convention was to unite those disparate groups and individuals under a common umbrella. That was done as delegates voted for a constitution and by-laws that are not substantially different from those of today’s MCAA. The initial treasurer’s report even showed a balance on hand of $490.25!

Fast forward to 2013. MCAA now has an annual budget of $13 million, all of which goes to benefit our member companies and deliver a stronger industry. We are actively working on a number of legislative initiatives, many in tandem with our labor partners at the United Association. They include, most importantly, seeking multiemployer defined benefit pension reform to secure a more stable future for the pension plans that our UA workforce relies on, and to which we as contractors contribute.

Well, you get the idea – MCAA continues to have one primary goal – to keep our members educated, informed and ahead of the change curve.

In conclusion, after 125 years we may be older than dirt but that’s all to the good. We’ve evolved and changed – always with one goal in mind: to meet the needs of our members. Many, many members and leaders have served to advance our association and industry. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

We’ve accomplished a lot but each year we’re accomplishing even more for you and your company. And we’re growing even stronger, every year. And that’s something to mark for the history books.


Michael R. Cables

MCAA President

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          Master Steam Fitter and Heating Engineer covers the election of Charles Gillis as first association president.

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          Telegrams were often used in early membership recruitment.

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          A copy of the association’s first By-Laws

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