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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 Maloney Ushers in Gilded Era More than 300 delegates gathered for the 21 st I.U.O.E. Convention beginning April 8, 1940, in Washington, D.C., the first held by the union since before the Great Depression. Among the business they conducted, the delegates adopted resolutions that placed them on record as favoring a national license law for operating engineers and continuation of the Public Works Administration, the New Deal agency designed to reduce unemployment through the construction of highways and public buildings that had been disbanded the previous year and would remain so despite I.U.O.E. appeals. But with a legacy that included reviving stationary-field organizing and implementing the formation of state- and market-wide hoisting and portable locals, General President Possehl died on September 14, 1940. The 56-year-old had been serving on the General Executive Board while it was in session in Washington, D.C., when he became ill with a heart ailment the day before he passed away. The board on September 19 unanimously elected Brother William E. Maloney, the union’s fifth vice president, as its next general president. A native of Chicago and a member of the I.U.O.E. for 30 years, his ascendency to the position marked the start of a period of “spectacular growth” for the union over much of the ensuing two decades, which coincided with his presidency, as The Economic History of a Trade Union asserts: “By any measure, the years 1940- 1958 must be counted as the most illustrious period of the union’s history to that time.” Up until 1940 and, essentially, the beginning of General President Maloney’s term, the engineers’ union since 1896 was basically two organizations in one, consisting of a branch of stationary engineers and a building trades branch of operating engineers, The Economic History of a Trade Union attests. Beginning in 1940, a “small but significant trend towards organization” of semi-skilled operators and employees in numerous other industries added a third group to the union’s membership, starting a trend in the union’s organizing campaigns that reached well beyond its traditional doctrine and corresponding efforts. In particular, starting in the early 1940s, the union placed a new focus on organizing the dredging jurisdiction on the east coast, which had essentially been neglected since the 1927 amalgamation with the steam-shovel workers’ and dredgemen’s union. (1) “In the organizing campaigns of the 1940s and 1950s, the union departed from its onetime craft purity,” the book summarizes. As a result, when the delegates of the union’s 21 st Convention met in Washington, D.C., in April 1940, its membership stood at 58,240 and by 1960, union affiliation by members employed outside the construction industry would be four times what it was in 1939. But late that year, another world war that would have unimagined consequences was ignited in Europe and Asia. Canada entered the conflict on September 10, 1939, alongside the Allied countries led by England and France, just nine days after the military forces of Nazi Germany invaded Poland, setting off the hostilities in which the I.U.O.E. would play a prominent role. Winning a Second Global War With World War II raging across much of the globe into 1940, in July of that year the United States inaugurated its National Defense Program. The resulting construction needs for the nation’s military buildup would require the manpower of scores of I.U.O.E. members. Within nine months after the Selective Service Act became law on September 14, 1940, operating A political cartoon by I.U.O.E. Local No. 57 of Rhode Island from May 1941 celebrating the long-awaited passage of a state hoisting engineer licensing bill. LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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