View Full Version : Are there drawbacks to union welding jobs or are they just hard to get?

Michael Yadfar
06-22-2017, 10:24 PM
There was a rumor that the workers for the union working on a local pipeline were getting $100 an hour. We looked it up, and they aren't getting that, but journeymen pipe welders in the local union do get $72 an hour plus health insurance, 401k, and pension. The lowest level apprentice starts at $24 an hour.

Based on this, a journeyman welder theoretically makes the same if not more than doctors, and entry level apprentices make the national average salary of a pipe welder.

I figure there's gotta be some drawback to this though, because why wouldn't there be more people pursuing union welding jobs if you get paid a doctorates salary? I also know people who went through welding school and are mighty fine welders that are making in the $20s and never even pursued union.

Are there long layoffs? Are jobs rarely available?

paul cottingham
06-22-2017, 10:38 PM
Trying not to comment on "more than a doctor." But it's killing me.

Chris Parks
06-22-2017, 11:04 PM
Having been in and around pipe welding there is one drawback but not actually done it, there aren't a lot of people who can do the job and willing to put up with the conditions. I don't know what sort of pipeline it is but every weld has to be defect free and they have too prove it. If they are welding low Hydrogen stick in a pipe in simmer I don't reckon they are getting paid enough but these days it is usually automated MIG on a big job.

Michael Yadfar
06-22-2017, 11:09 PM
I'm sorry, "more than a doctor" was a bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean. The pipeline they're installing is a natural gas pipeline and I'm not sure what they're using to weld it.

I may be listening to the guys at work too much too, because they were like "yea they're just welding some pipe, we could do that". Obviously if it's something that takes 10 years to master then they do indeed deserve all the bit of that $72 an hour.

paul cottingham
06-22-2017, 11:35 PM
I meant it's a highly skilled job, (that is often in miserable conditions) that deserves good compensation. I think many skilled trades should be compensated highly.

Wayne Lomman
06-23-2017, 12:15 AM
You don't get paid like that out of generosity. There will be big trade offs for example, living away from home, hazardous environment, extremely high standards, high risk workplace etc etc.

Wages like that mean you can weed out the average guys and only hire the best.

Having done a lot of trade work in similar circumstances, this kind of money is not even slightly tempting. I have already paid the price over and over and and I'm lucky. I'm at least still married and none of the rest of my mates are. Cheers

Mike Cutler
06-23-2017, 5:39 AM

We hire "contract" welders out of the Union Hall all the time. As well as pipefitters, millwrights, electricians, and laborers. While the contract for the welder may pay $72.00 an hour, this doesn't mean that the guy on the staging platform is getting that. His/her pay and compensation is part of that $72.00. We don't pay the welder directly. We pay his/her business unit.
That being said, it can be hard, hazardous work, in some really lousy condition at times. If you're a good welder, and willing to travel, or "get on the bike", you could make a good living, maybe not as much doctors, but still a good living, depending on your experience and certs. ;)
The trades are becoming a dying profession(s).

Mike Henderson
06-23-2017, 8:30 AM
I also imagine that the work is not steady. You get paid a lot when you work but you don't have work all the time. Similar to oil field workers.


Ken Kimbrell
06-23-2017, 10:02 AM
All of the above. :)
Having worked as a welder many years ago, both in a Naval shipyard and as a 'contract' welder I can attest to all of the strain of the conditions and as for the pay most people who do the actual welding do not get anywhere near that kind of money. Generally speaking, welders DO make good money, but the really high paying jobs like a pipe line are few and far between and usually don't last very long.Think of it in terms of the building trades... the pay may be good (in some cases), but it's likely you will have down time with no work, sometimes lots of downtime.

For me the biggest issue are the health concerns, some of the smoke/fumes that is produced from welding can be extremely hazardous to you lungs. In my case, now that I'm in my mid-late 70's, my lungs have developed emphysema and that requires drugs, inhalers and a breathing machine during sleeping hours.
Mind you, I'm not complaining about my circumstances, it was well known at the time what I was getting into and aside from the aggravation of the medications and the machine, life is OK for me. Just pointing out that the long term consequences for this kind of work can be life altering to say the least.

Jim Becker
06-23-2017, 10:09 AM
There are lot of welding and metalworking jobs that come with substantial risks due to the nature of the work and work environment, particularly in the energy industry. They pay highly for that reason and it takes big money to encourage folks to risk life and limb to do the work.

Art Mann
06-23-2017, 12:47 PM
The key here is you mentioned "union" welding jobs. Non-union pay is much lower. Union membership is an increasingly exclusive club.

Jim Reffner
06-23-2017, 1:30 PM
Google Local 798, the pipeliners local. Pipeline is very lucrative, but rarely occurs in your backyard. Right now in Ohio there are probably 2500 hundred equipment operators employed in the ongoing pipeline work, as the jobs complete the boomers (out of towners) move on to next spread- same with the welders. Exclusive club... don't think so, just trying to make a buck like everyone else. 798 journeyman also get paid an hourly rate for their truck that they use, contractors provide the fuel. $ 100+/hr sounds close but includes the truck and the journeyman rate. I've worked pipeline back in the late 90's as an equipment operator, a greaser, drove the lube truck. Knocked down 13k in 7 weeks, 60-70 hrs./week no per diem.

Larry Edgerton
06-23-2017, 6:27 PM
Lineman would be a better gig one I would likely get in to if I got a second chance. Good pay, steady, and an occasional storm to boost the pocketbook with crazy overtime.

Rick Potter
06-24-2017, 12:20 PM
My father in law was a welder, and worked sporadically. He was a good welder, but was never well off. 'Certified' welders made better money, as did specialized stuff like underwater welding. Steady work was hard to find for him, even in the 1960's.

Ryan Mooney
06-24-2017, 12:35 PM
as did specialized stuff like underwater welding.

My uncle was an underwater oil rig welder and the money was indeed really good. The downside was that he got brain cancer from the fumes in his mid-late forties and was dead by his early 50's. He was lucky though, he got to see his kids grow up, and a depressing number of his co-workers didn't. Granted he was working off shore where the money was better but the safety standards weren't... but it would be hard to pay me enough to go down in a hole like that..

I would have to imagine that pipe welders would have somewhat similar (if perhaps less and more controlled) exposure due to confined spaces.

On a similar note my Cousin was a logger and just turned 65 a couple of years ago and was commenting that pretty much everyone he started logging with was either dead or permanently crippled. That's another boom and bust business, I've seen him have millions in play and end up about as much in the hole within a couple of years.

Frank Drew
06-24-2017, 1:28 PM
I'm fine with skilled work getting well compensated; much of value of this kind of work is easily measured -- a new bridge, or a pipeline or a building. Lots of very, very highly paid work in this country is of dubious value to the rest of us (i.e. it's extracting wealth rather than creating wealth.)

Private sector unions are a shadow of their former size.

Jim Koepke
06-24-2017, 1:40 PM
Most people who complain about others being overpaid have no aptitude for doing the difficult or dirty jobs.

As a retired person I occasionally see a job listing and think, I could do that with no problem. Then I think about having to show up everyday at the same time.

I think I will stay retired.


paul cottingham
06-24-2017, 3:22 PM
When I was a teen, I had a job cleaning a plywood mill on Saturdays. It was a dirty, heavy job, my job was scraping pitch off the doors of the veneer dryers. One of my buddies had to crawl through a green chain tunnel, pushing crap ahead of them. It took two showers to get clean. It did pay very well (for the time) and taught me hard work, even more so than growing up on a farm, with a gentle, but unbelievably hard working dad.