Pipefitters Labor Union To Open Trade School In Palatine

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Chicago Pipefitters Local 597 labor union is planning to open a trade school at the former Richards Building Supply Co., in the industrial area of southeast Palatine, at 550-560 S. Vermont St.

The union, which is based in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, runs trade schools in southwest suburban Mokena and Crown Point, IN. They wanted to build a school further north, to better serve trainees and union members who live in North and Northwest suburbs. The building will also house a wellness center to provide physical therapy and other medical services for union members.

Both uses are allowed by default in Chicago’s manufacturing districts. But the union had to go before the village council to get permission to put in fewer parking spaces than would be required under Palatine’s zoning code. The village council unanimously approved the request during the June 7 council meeting.

According to Local 597’s official website, the union offers five-year apprenticeships in pipe-fitting, welding and HVAC servicing. Each year, the apprentices get about 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and attend classes once a week. Upon completion of the program, they get certification and the journeyperson status.

In addition to teaching apprentices, the training centers provide continued education for more experienced union members. 

During the June 7 meeting, Robert Passarella, the union’s business representative, told the village council that, because of how long it took to reach either of the existing training facilities, they had trouble attracting apprentices from northern and northwestern suburbs.

“That was one reason we selected Palatine,” Passarella said. “With its access to [IL 53 highway], people can get to this training center.”

It will also make it easier to serve members who live in the area, he added.

“We’re really looking forward to expanding our base here in the North and the Northwest suburbs,” Passarella said.

According to the business plan submitted to the village, the training center will hold regular welding classes on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., as well as walk-in classes. HVAC class will be held on weekday evenings, 5 to 8 p.m.

The physical therapy will be available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursday between 8 a.m. and noon and between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. On Tuesdays and Fridays, it will be available at 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. Only one union member can schedule an appointment at any given time.

Similarly, the wellness center will only accept up two two patients at any given time. On Mondays and Thursdays, appointments will be available from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 7 p.m. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the appointments will be available from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. The appointments are available on Fridays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the same one-hour break from noon to 1 p.m.

While Palatine’s zoning regulations would require the building to have at least 115 parking spaces, the union said that, since the building isn’t likely to handle more than 28-33 people at any given time, including instructors, medical staff and therapists, 53 parking spaces would more than meet their needs. The village agreed, and the council unanimously approved the application.

Passarella said that the union is still in the process of buying the building from Richards Building Supply Co. The sale was contingent on the parking variation, he said. But, assuming there are no significant delays, Passarella said they expect to have the training center up and running “in the middle of January [2021].”

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June 23, 2021 at 11:07AM

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