OCEAN CITY – Officials from the Local 100 honored an Ocean City man for 70 years of membership in the sheet metal workers union.
On Feb. 3 representatives of the Local Union 100 — the union serving sheet metal, air, rail and transportation workers — recognized Ocean City resident John Kavanagh, 92, for 70 years of paying dues.
“We’ve got to acknowledge the service these guys have given the union,” said Edward Whalen, a business agent with the union.
Kavanagh, who’s lived in Ocean City since retiring 30 years ago, joined the union in the 1940s after graduating from high school and joining his family’s coppersmith company, which was affiliated with the Local 100. Though Kavanagh was drafted during World War II, he returned to the coppersmith trade after serving in the Navy.
Kavanagh went on to lead Baltimore’s Joseph J. Kavanagh Company, the family coppersmith business that had been started in 1866.
“I worked in breweries, repairing kettles and all the lines the beer went through,” he said. “Distilleries too.”
When distilleries began to go out of business, the company started to experiment with bending pipes and tubes. Run by three of his children, the Joseph Kavanagh Company is still alive today as a pipe and tube bending business.
Kavanagh says that while a pension and health insurance are the benefits union members enjoy these days, when he joined the Local 100 it was simply to put more money in his pocket.
“When I first started you got a better wage for being in the union,” he said.
He kept paying his dues through the decades though and today he says the health insurance provided through the 2,800-member union has played a key role in his life.
“I don’t know what I’d have been without the union,” Kavanagh said.
The health coverage and pension offered by the union enabled him to raise nine children and enjoy retirement in Ocean City with his wife, Betty.
“I owe the union,” he said. “The union doesn’t owe me.”
Nevertheless union officials say they thought it was important to recognize Kavanagh for his 70 years of support.
“These guys are the foundation of what we are today,” said Richard LaBille, business manager for the Local 100.