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125 Years Strong – An IUOE History

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Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the International Union of Operating Engineers


INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS of the country affected I.U.S.O.E. members in places including Rockport, Massachusetts, and Graniteville, Vermont. Addressing the convention on the ominous state of affairs, President Huddell professed: “When the situation is presented to this office, there is no escape from granting men strike permission who are willing to go out and fight for conditions for the engineers, and in every such case strike permission has been granted by me, and the men have gone out and fought in a manner that is a credit to our international union. Our membership has shown, in both the stationary and the hoisting branch of our organization, that they are willing to fight for conditions, and have gone out and demonstrated, as they never did before, their fighting qualities. To every man who has been involved in these controversies, I want to say that he deserves the highest praise for the manner in which he has conducted himself, and the results that have been accomplished will reflect to the credit of these men and future Engineers.” Additional Gains & High Spirits By mid-1923, the I.U.S.O.E. was emerging from the effects of the depression and a measure of prosperity was returning to its ranks and, subsequently, the international office. Importantly, the union had again held together through another extended test of its collective will and brotherhood, giving rise to an essay in the July 1923 issue of the union’s journal to announce: “Attempts of employers’ associations to disrupt the ranks of labor found the International Union of Steam and Operating Engineers invulnerable in practically every quarter. Members were less affected by the insidious schemes to break down morale of the membership than any other unit of the American Federation of Labor.” Moreover, advancing technology into and during the mid-1920s helped usher in a period of relatively strong prosperity for construction workers, including engineers. Gains made by the I.U.S.O.E., in particular, resulted in increased membership in 1923, during which the union reinstated 1,512 former members, admitted 5,521 new members and granted 25 charters for new locals. Two international collective-bargaining practices initiated during that time which later became important elements in the union’s bargaining strength, as The Economic History of a Trade Union points out also helped sustain the union’s improving condition. The first was an international agreement signed directly between the heads of firms doing interstate business and General President Huddell, who in his report to the I.U.S.O.E. Ninth Biennial Convention in Detroit in September 1924 strongly advocated for such agreements, which called for the hiring of only union labor, adherence to area wage scales and work rules, and settling labor disputes peacefully. The second was the procedure of using the union’s bargaining power to persuade interstate contractors to hire union engineers in areas where locals were too weak to organize the firms. Soon afterward, President Huddell’s 1926 New Year message to the membership struck a positive tone as he highlighted the recent gains made by the I.U.S.O.E. as it approached the completion of its third decade: “There are more members now enrolled in the International Union, and the organization's treasury is in a more prosperous condition than ever before. Also, there has never been a time when harmony and mutuality among all the elements of the organization was as evident as now. Not only have we enjoyed a most gratifying increase in number, but there has likewise been a substantial improvement in wages and working conditions for our membership an improvement hitherto unequalled in any one year of the organization’s history.” The union strengthened the position of its general president through constitutional Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 37 in Baltimore operate a crane for employer Potts and Callahan on a job in the city at a site in what is now Camden Yards sometime during the late 1920s or early 1930s. amendments made during its 1926 convention that enhanced the general president’s supervisory control by giving him “power to suspend either individual members or officers for incompetency, negligence or failure in successfully carrying out their duties.” The president was further provided the authority to select the person who would replace any suspended officer or member. In addition, another constitutional revision made during that convention lengthened the period between which conventions would be held from two years to four years thereby lengthening the time between which general officers were to be elected and re-elected, as well. As the union’s new-found progress continued, by the close of its 30 th year it had gained more members in 1926 than in any other year, and its membership stood at more than 40,000 while its assets in property and money in all funds totaled over 0,000. With those substantial developments, the I.U.S.O.E. was able to obtain better conditions for members, and that year, locals entered into more agreements with employers than ever before for increased wages, shorter hours, better working conditions and even paid vacation time while only one local had to go out on strike to secure an increase. Several jurisdictional disputes were also settled satisfactorily during the year, including LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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