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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 extensive growth of the I.U.O.E. in the first half of the 1950s, during which organizing efforts among pipeline workers resulted in an initial influx of over 15,000 new members working under the union’s National Pipeline Agreement. (1) As a result, by the end of 1955 the union’s active membership stood at 241,391, an increase of nearly 50,000 members from just four years earlier. A highly successful, carefully planned organizing campaign had turned the tables on the pipeline industry, in which prior to 1949 practically all pipelines in the country were being constructed by non-union contractors. In September 1949, the union signed an agreement with 13 large pipeline companies that had withdrawn from the Associated General Contractors because of various conflicts and formed the Pipeline Contractors’ Association in 1948. The pact contained many concessions on conditions established for building construction and set wage rates for pipeline work at those prevailing on area highway construction. (1) Just three years after signing the agreement, by 1952 the I.U.O.E. campaign had organized 92 percent of the pipeline industry, with 72 contractors having joined into the contract, and by 1956, the agreement involved 200 signatory contractors and 25,000 new pipeline members had been added to the union. But the union was again impacted by war when the Korean Conflict between Sovietbacked North Korea and U.S.-backed South Korea broke out on June 25, 1950, and over the next three years, the union and its members played vital roles in the war. In addition to members distinguishing themselves in combat and at home on materiel production, Before construction began on the new (and current) I.U.O.E. headquarters building in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 1955, General Secretary-Treasurer Charles B. Gramling turns the first shovelful of dirt at the building site during a groundbreaking ceremony attended by many local and international officers of the union. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 3 in San Francisco stand with contractors and government officials in front of an HD 21 tractor during a project at Ponderay Lake (or Lake Pend Oreille) in Idaho in 1953. when the war broke out, stepped-up work on atomic energy installations also required the full skillsets of I.U.O.E. engineers. As such, General President Maloney issued an order to all locals that “full cooperation with the Department of Defense and with the Atomic Energy Commission was to be given and that work stoppages on vital government projects were to be kept to a minimum.” The early 1950s also saw the union push member participation in an improved program that had been instituted in July 1949 to inform and educate its engineers about accident prevention an effort that has endured and been expanded over the decades since. The importance of accident prevention was accentuated during 1950 and 1951 when the union paid out more than ,000 in death benefits for members killed as the result of onthe-job accidents. LABOR OMNIA VINCIT Unprecedented prosperity in the United States and Canada during the mid-1950s, and the subsequent expansion of the industry sector and its increase in factory activity and the construction of new schools, institutions, hotels and office buildings, created even more work for the I.U.O.E. membership. Along with the boom in industrial construction, the government also continued to expand its atomic-energy program, keeping many operating engineers employed in that sector. During that time, on November 1, 1954, the I.U.O.E. and the laborers, teamsters and carpenters unions formed the National Joint Heavy and Highway Committee to moreactively pursue the abundance of heavy and highway work taking place throughout their jurisdictions. The committee was tasked with expediting work in the field, preventing jurisdictional disputes and protecting the WORK CONQUERS ALL

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