History of MCA Georgia and MIC
Sometime around 1890, plumbing and heating contractors in Atlanta came together to form one of the city’s first trade associations. A full century later, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Georgia (MCAG) emerged as the state’s leading union-employing organization serving contractors from the Tennessee border in the north to the Florida state line in the south.
Those years of the 20th Century during which MCAG evolved were not always orderly and neither was the growth of the association. Added to such dynamic forces, as extreme economic cycles and war, there were major revolutions in the construction industry. Especially critical for mechanical contractors were the explosion of air conditioning services and equipment, particularly in the south, and the advent of automated controls. These elements, among others, caused many contractors to alter and expand the scope of their work creating new competitive situations. Government regulation also became a huge factor in the way both contractors and their associations did business. Last, but not least, environmental considerations leaned heavily on the mechanical industry.
Georgia’s union-employing mechanical contractors, facing the combination of these factors, organized themselves down through the years into several trade groups and associations which can best be sorted out by beginning with today’s organizations. (One industry observer facetiously said that if you tossed the letters A, M, P, T, G and C onto a desk – no matter how randomly they landed - they would probably form the acronym of one of these many organizations. These can be confusing.)
MCAG’s primary concern is labor relations beginning with periodic negotiations of the collective bargaining agreement with plumbers and pipe fitters UA local # 72. Trustees appointed by MCAG, along with labor, administer such fringe funds as pension, health and welfare and share oversight for a robust apprenticeship-training program.
MCAG also names trustees for the Mechanical Industries Council (MIC), an industry fund dedicated primarily to education within the ranks of both management and labor and to the promotion of union-employing contractors. MIC trustees also monitor state and federal legislation affecting the building trades.
The name MCAG came into being in 1998 when the association undertook broader geographical representation of mechanical contractors. MCAG replaced the Association of Mechanical Contractors of Atlanta, Inc. (AMCA) which, as the name implied, was more limited. As was the case with their predecessors, both organizations affiliated with the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) that represents about 80 trade associations nationwide.
AMCA had its beginnings in 1962 and was formed through the merger of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Atlanta, Inc. representing heating, ventilation and air conditioning firms and the Associated Plumbing Contractors of Atlanta. For years, the two organizations existed side-by-side sharing much the same agenda and many of the same member firms. The elimination of this burdensome duplication of services was one major reason for the merger. Another was a changing competitive environment in which firms sought to supply all of the mechanical requirements of a job. Heating and air conditioning firms added plumbing and the plumbing contractors went into HVAC. Not the least of merger benefits was a lessening of the burdens on active members who now could devote their time to one organization and not two.
Through the years, the merged organizations had other names that might be noted for the record. For example, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Atlanta was a name adopted in 1955 by firms that had been known as The Heating, Piping and Air Conditioning Contractors, Atlanta Association, Inc. Plumbing contractors had gone by Associated Plumbing Contractors of Atlanta (1944) that was preceded by the Master Plumbers Association (1928).
Today’s MIC, the industry fund, had its roots years ago in an organization called the Piping Industry Program (PIP). Through this organization, the union and contractors jointly managed health, welfare and retirement funds as well as the apprenticeship program. In the mid-1960s, this joint management of an industry fund was found to be illegal under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act and apprenticeship training was removed to another trusteeship called the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust (JATT) that exists today and operates the Mechanical Trades Institute. The industry fund was renamed Piping Promotion Trust and became the Mechanical Industries Council in the mid-1970s.
Historically, the contractor members of these organizations have been a closely-aligned group. The cooperative spirit of contractor members has been exhibited in the high degree of member participation in organizational responsibilities and functions and dedication to the promotion of the mechanical trades.
One of the most tangible evidences of this dedication is the Mechanical Trades Institute whose modern classrooms, shops and labs are located in Atlanta’s Fulton Industrial Park. The Institute also has off-campus training facilities in Rome, Albany and Macon. Apprenticeship classes, of which there are now two a year, undertake a five-year curriculum in the plumbing, pipefitting or service trades. The total number of apprentices exceeds 300 a year. In mid-2000, a modern addition to the Institute was dedicated with a large delegation of city, state and federal officials in attendance along with representatives of the construction industry.
Georgia contractors have also been leaders in nationwide industry activities. In 1972, Georgia hosted the national convention of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America that was held in Atlanta. Executives of Georgia firms have served on numerous national industry committees. One of the members served as president of the MCAA and another is slated to take over that national responsibility in the year 2003.
Through the years these contractors have contributed much to a healthy and prosperous "constructed" South through involvement with critical water and wastewater treatment facilities, heavy and process industries new to the region, power generation, civic infrastructure such as public buildings and educational facilities, stadia and such milestone structures as those associated with the 1996 Olympic Games held in Georgia.
Retired plumbing contractor Fred Horne inspects the remains of a wooden water main once part of the system supplied by an artesian well at Five Points in downtown Atlanta. The wooden piping network, probably built in the late 1800s, was uncovered during a Horne Plumbing & Heating Company project at the old City Market.
Reflecting on changes in the industry since the middle of the 20th Century, Horne observed that family ties and cliques, once the principal means to getting business, were bye-gones and overall projects, once the responsibility of trained mechanics, were now in the hands of design engineers.