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UA Local 322 History

Local 322’s proud history began in Camden on November 17, 1912. We were divided into five jurisdictions; Atlantic City, Camden, Ocean City, Wildwood and Vineland.

With no central headquarters and most of the founding members working from home, the original charter went missing for a period of time. The charter later turned up at a yard sale and someone who recognized its importance forwarded it to the UA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

During the 1950s the charter found its way to the new home of Local 322 in Westville, the site of the Local’s first Apprentice Training Center. Before that time apprentices received training on the job and in classrooms at Camden County Vocational School.

In the early years our members worked at least six days a week for wages only. Monthly dues and working dues were collected as cash. Each member had a book in which gummed stamps were affixed, signifying their current dues status.
In 1912, pipe was threaded with un-geared block dies and screwed together with chain tongs and flap-back wrenches. Welding was thought of as “new-fangled nonsense” and wages were under 50 cents per hour. A temporary heating job consisted of moving coal from bins to the boilers and hauling the ashes out.

From 1912 through the 1930s our members worked on the mechanical piping systems and plumbing in places like Campbell Soup and the RCA Victor building in Camden.  They worked on hotels in Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Convention Center; glass houses in Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton; and petrochemical plants along the Delaware River.

Through the ‘30s and ‘40s came more work on hotels and coal power plants, as well as retail outlets like Sears and Roebuck in Camden and Glassboro State Teachers College. Local 322 celebrated the graduation of its first three apprentices – Joe Reed, Tom Kehoe and Frank Conover – and Atlantic City played host to the UA Convention.

From 1940 to 1950 the convention business in Atlantic City was booming, as was the refining business along the Delaware River. The Atlantic City and Garden State Park Racetracks were built and opened during this decade.

During this time the Wildwood, Ocean City and Vineland Locals merged into the Atlantic City Local 121. Following the merger, Bill O’Neill, Local 121’s Business Manager, went on to become the UA General Secretary-Treasurer.

In the 1950s Local 322 moved to Westville, and in 1954 the Department of Education approved formal education of apprentices.  The Local’s Health and Welfare benefit started in 1955 followed by the Pension Fund in 1960.

The 1960s and ‘70s brought a great deal of mall work, as well as work on county colleges and hospitals. Cherry Hill was alive with construction opportunities along Routes 70 and 38 – including restaurants, hotels and the world-famous Latin Casino.  Our members played a large role in the development of the region’s first nuclear power plant in Salem County, and Atlantic City was alive with the National Democratic Convention.  Also during this time the South Jersey Mechanical Contractors Association was formed.

The late 1970s and 1980s were times of great growth in the nuclear industry with the building of Hope Creek and the introduction of gaming in Atlantic City. Our members were busy working on numerous casinos – Resorts, Caesars, Trump, the Golden Nugget, the Tropicana, Bally’s and Harrah’s.

In 1977, as part of a national consolidation plan, the UA stepped in and merged Local 121 with Local 322, which brought together all the counties in South Jersey, including parts of Burlington and Ocean counties.

A major milestone in Local 322’s history occurred in 1991 with the purchase of 24 acres of land in Winslow. After receiving the required approvals, construction began in 1992.  In November, 1993 the 20,000 square-foot office opened housing our business and funds offices and our state-of-art training facility. Our Veterans Memorial was dedicated in October, 2008 in memory of our members who served in the military.

As we continued into the 1990s, a separate Refrigeration School for the HVAC apprentices began.  Atlantic City continued to evolve with the building of the Taj Mahal and the announcement of large additions to the other casino hotels.