WEST LOOP — Three of the state's most influential politicians were in the West Loop Tuesday to break ground on a new union training center.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton — along with a host of aldermen — were on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Plumbers Local 130 training center in the West Loop Tuesday. When complete, the training center will serve the union's more than 4,000 journeymen and apprentice plumbers.
The 50,000-square-foot, three-story building at 1400 W. Washington Boulevard is expected to open in July 2017 and will offer technology-related, "green" and traditional plumbing skills courses.
From left: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Business Manager James Coyne and Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Plumbers Local 130 training center in the West Loop Tuesday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
At the groundbreaking, Cullerton said that unions have been criticized as "a problem" because they are in a position to negotiate for higher wages.
"For some people, that's a bad thing. They think it's not good that people make more money. Now I don't particularly agree with that," Cullerton said. "I think it's a good thing that people in the state of Illinois can make more money."
In addition to advocating for their members, unions also invest in proper training, which minimizes workers' compensation costs, Cullerton said.
Plumbers Local 130 Business Manager James Coyne said that the new center will create jobs and pave the way for future laborers by showcasing rainwater harvesting, solar energy and grey water systems, "and training thousands of apprentices and journeymen who protect the health of the nation.”
Plumbing jobs pay double the median wage across all occupations, and overall demand for plumbers is expected to grow 13 percent by 2022, according to the Mayor's office.
"From the success that comes with advanced training to the values that come from vital work, this new center is building a strong foundation for the City of Chicago," Emanuel said.
Architecture firm Gensler designed the building and W.E. O'Neil Construction Co. will build the new center.
Chicago Plumbers 130 is the largest plumbers union in the United States.
A rendering shows what the new Plumbers Local 130 training center will look like when completed in July 2017. [Gensler]
The future site of the new Plumbers Local 130 training center in the West Loop. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
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