Brothers and Sisters,
Our top priority is to be here for our members during these unprecedented times. We’ve built one of the strongest unions in the industry — and together, we can withstand any storm.
We have been in close coordination everyday with the United Association, the Massachusetts Building Trades, the Boston Building Trades, and the New England Mechanical Contractors Association. We are making preparations to ensure that your job site will be safer than ever when you return to work.
We might not have all the answers right now, but you have my word: all of us at Local 537 have your back, no matter what. That’s why we’ll be updating this COVID-19 Online Resource Center daily with the latest information to support you and your family.
Please call the Union Hall or your Business Agent if you have any questions or need assistance, or email LU537unionhall@pipefitters537.com. I also encourage you to receive text alerts by texting L537 to 77222 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates. Though we face some uncertainty in the coming weeks, we will get through this and emerge stronger than ever, as one Union.
Business Manager/Financial Secretary-Treasurer
Pipefitters Local 537
Watch Business Manager Tom Kerr's video update on the direct action we're taking to make sure our members and your families are protected:
Local 537 Closures & Cancellations
- The Union Meeting and Retirees Meeting for June are canceled.
- Union Hall meetings and events are suspended until further notice.
- Union Hall, Funds Office, and Training Center are closed to visitors until further notice.
While the Union Hall and Training Center are physically closed, our lines of communication are open and fully operating. Please call or email the Union Hall or your Business Agent for any questions or concerns you might have.
Project Shutdowns & Updates
- City of Boston, MA
- City of Cambridge, MA
- City of Somerville, MA
- City of Watertown, MA
According to the Mayor’s Office, as of May 5, the City of Boston will “allow essential construction projects” starting on Monday, May 18th. This work includes “hospitals, public schools, residential buildings [1-3 units], roads and utility work, and other outdoor/open-air work.” Projects will be “required to submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan and a signed affidavit” and will need to be “sufficiently prepared to adhere to all criteria.” On May 26, the City may allow “all essential construction projects to re-commence construction activities in adherence to their safety plans.” We will keep you updated regarding similar re-openings in Cambridge, Somerville, and other areas throughout our region.
Members who are currently working and feel well, but need to take care of a child or a sick family member, should notify their contractor and Business Agent, and stay home. Please review our previous guidance for details.
Return to Work Guidance
- We’ve worked with our industry partners to ensure that members who are still on the job, but need to take care of a child or ill family member, are in no way penalized for missing work.
- If you or your family member gets sick with COVID-19, they will be guaranteed two weeks of paid sick time thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law at the federal level on March 18, 2020. If you have children who need care due to school closures or have been instructed to remain at home due to exposure or symptoms, you may also be eligible for this benefit.
Health & Welfare Coverage
- Blue Cross Blue Shield’s WellConnection offers urgent telehealth services for minor medical care and behavioral health concerns. Learn more here.
- The Modern Assistance Program continues as Local 537’s sole provide of pre-authorization review for all inpatient mental health and inpatient substance admissions, including partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs for substance use and mental health. Contact them at 617-774-0331.
Unemployment Benefits & Tips
- We’ve successfully lobbied the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Maine to waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment assistance. All members who have separated from work due to COVID-19 are immediately available for benefits. Review the information below, and call or email your Business Agent with questions.
- Congress also passed a stimulus bill that includes additional relief for those collecting unemployment, including an additional $600 per week for 4 months on top of your current benefits.
For Members Working in Massachusetts
If you are applying for unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, follow these key tips to receive quick and reliable benefits:
- Submit your application on or after the Monday following your layoff. Your application may be disqualified if you apply for unemployment assistance prior to the Monday after your layoff.
- Apply online. State-run call centers and offices are closed or operating with limited staffing. The fastest way is to apply online by following these instructions: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits
- Do NOT enter a “return to work” or “recall” date. Although some public officials have identified plans to re-evaluate suspensions of construction work, this is not a guarantee that work will resume at that time.
- If you need to reset your password or have trouble accessing your account, use this link: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/reset-your-ui-online-password-as-a-claimant
For more information on unemployment insurance (UI) and other available benefits for Massachusetts workers, please review the following guides and resources:
- The Department of Unemployment Assistance is hosting virtual town hall meetings via phone and online to walk through the claim process, and answer questions. Register for a town hall presentation on applying for unemployment assistance by 5:30 PM the night before the presentation to receive a call. Sign up here: https://bit.ly/3blBCSG
- Get step-by-step guidance on applying for UI during this time: https://bit.ly/3ankJ90
- See if you qualify for UI and get more information about receiving it: https://bit.ly/2R6r4yQ
Online Dues Payment
Although most childcare programs in Massachusetts have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some emergency childcare programs will still operate for children of families who are Essential Workers. For more information visit: https://sforce.co/2wLMhao
Federal CARES Act
As you may have seen, Congress recently passed a stimulus bill that includes an additional $600/week in relief for those collecting unemployment and individual cash payments of $1,200. This is a good start, but it’s not enough. Rest assured, we’ll continue pushing until you and your family get the support you need.
Additional Resources for Union Members
Members on the job should follow the United Association’s COVID-19 worker guidelines to maintain the highest safety standards. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), wash your hands regularly, and maintain social distancing.
Please also review the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety’s Health Toolkit for Essential Workers: Health and Safety Protections and How to Make Them Happen: https://bit.ly/3c667fN
Click here for Greater Boston Labor Council’s COVID-19 Resource Guide, which includes key resources and up-to-date guidance on unemployment, healthcare, child care, and more.
Additionally, visit the Mass Building Trades Council’s Best Practices page for information on the following:
- Best practices for workers and employers
- Unemployment insurance updates
- Details on the paid sick and family medical leave legislation recently passed at the federal level.
- Updates from healthcare carriers
For guidance and support in American Sign Language, watch the CDC’s ASL video series on COVID-19. Subjects include:
- COVID-19 Prevention Tips
- Symptoms of COVID-19
- What Older Adults Need to Know about COVID-19
- What Is My Risk for COVID-19?
- 10 Things You Can do to Manage COVID-19 at Home
Frequently Asked Questions
All Local 537 trainings, meetings, and events have been suspended until further notice. We will keep members updated about any future scheduled events, and will issue updated training schedules.
If you’re not feeling well or have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, it is recommended that you stay home and not come to work until you are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
Please report an illness and subsequent absence from work to your contractor, as well as the Union Hall.
Seek medical help if you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Information on COVID-19 symptoms can be found on the CDC website.
If you are working, please notify your contractor and Business Agent, and stay home.
The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by practicing social distancing, even if you are not feeling sick. Please review our previous guidance for details on how to stay healthy and reduce the spread of the virus.