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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 Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 37 in Baltimore and their guests attend the local’s first-ever 30-Year Club banquet on May 3, 1945, at the city’s Emerson Hotel. The Local 37 30-Year Club continues to operate in 2021. after renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory) in Tennessee, where the enriched uranium used in the first atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, was produced. The I.U.O.E. was singled out on various occasions for its support of the war effort, including a special citation from the U.S. Treasury Department in October 1942 for distinguished services rendered to the National War Savings Program. Then in March 1943, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ben Moreell who was best known as the “Father of the Navy’s Seabees” presented an Award of Merit to the union in acknowledgment of its efforts to enlist recruits for service in the Navy’s Construction Battalions. As the war dragged on, the I.U.O.E. held its convention in Chicago in April 1944, by which time the union’s membership had reached a peak of about 130,000 before declining somewhat. The wartime convention was strictly business, with delegates endorsing the six-hour workday, disapproving government interference in employment and resolving to campaign for national voter registration so that the membership could vote in full strength. Following the conference, all general officers were re-elected by member referendum. The union won an important jurisdictional decision that December in a dispute with the International Association of Machinists over repairs on machinery operated by engineers at worksites where they were being used. The A.F.L. Executive Council approved a special committee’s recommendation that jurisdiction over all repairs necessary to keep machines that were operated by members of the I.U.O.E. on worksites belonged to the operating engineers. After nearly six years of war, the I.U.O.E., all of labor and all of North America celebrated the end of hostilities in Europe on May 8, 1945. The war ended completely when Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, bringing total victory for the United States, Canada and their allies. Nearly 18,000 members of the I.U.O.E. had served in the armed forces during World War II, 273 of whom were killed. At the close of the war, the contributions and sacrifices of the union’s membership were recognized in a letter of appreciation and praise from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who wrote: “I am addressing this letter of appreciation to the I.U.O.E. on the day of the surrender of the last of our enemies. Among the unions which have worked with the Navy to build our enormous chain of bases at home and abroad, your union has been outstanding. Your members deserve to carry with them into peace, therefore, a special sense of pride in a great national achievement. On this day of final victory, the Navy sends to all of you its sincere thanks.” Golden Benchmark Anniversary “The term ‘Engineer’ today means a great deal, for engineers are men above the average in intelligence and mechanical ability. Today, the engineer to be a success in his profession must be technical as well as practical; he must be a good mathematician, draftsman, understand steam, gas, diesel engines, electricity, hydraulics and also be an all-around mechanic. The improvement of engineers along these lines has long been fostered by the International Union.” The International Engineer, December 1946 I.U.O.E. 50 th Anniversary Issue Brother Carl Gillespie (standing) and Brother Lindsay Bade (seated in cab) of I.U.O.E. Portlandbased Local No. 701 work on a project on Sauvie Island on the Columbia River circa 1946. By the end of the Second World War and for some time afterward, heavy and highway work was the primary source of employment for the operating engineers, with construction of airports, dams, reservoirs, railroads, pipelines, subways, sewers, bridges, water treatment plants and highways furnishing from 70 to 90 percent of their jobs. Civilian infrastructure that had been put on hold during the war, LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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