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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 Moses is the biggest electricity producer in New York State, generating up to 2.6-million kilowatts of power.) Among the other notable projects employing I.U.O.E. members at that time, more than 3,000 operating engineers were working on the joint United States-Canadian Saint Lawrence Seaway construction project, which took nearly four years of work when completed in 1959 and cost nearly billion. Another massive project employing thousands of members was construction of the Illinois State tollway, a 187-mile “super highway” that cost 2 million to build before it first opened in 1958 in the Chicago area. After 18 years serving as general president (still in 2021 the longest tenure for that office in the history of the I.U.O.E.), Brother Maloney retired from the position in 1958 because of health reasons. He passed on to his successor, General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph J. Delaney, an international organization that had grown from roughly 75,000 to nearly 300,000 members under his leadership and had a net worth of more than million. Boston Red Sox Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams (center), a follower of the highly successful softball team of Rhode Island-based I.U.O.E. Local No. 57, visits the local’s union hall sometime during the 1960s. ‘Organize, Organize, Organize’ Almost immediately after being selected by the General Executive Board on February 14, 1958, to lead the union, new General President Delaney initiated a dynamic program for progress. He made his intentions clear in a message splashed right on the front cover of the March 1958 International Operating Engineer journal: “We are going to institute the most aggressive organizing campaign in our history. Our nation is on the threshold of a new era in power and production. Our craft can make great contributions to this new advance. “We are going to organize, organize, organize both in the stationary and portable fields. “We are going to render improved service to our present membership and bring benefits of unionism to the new fields within our craft jurisdiction. “We will meet the challenges ahead with promptness, vigor and determination.” As part of his “seven-point program,” President Delaney appointed a Director of Organization to head up what he called “the most aggressive organizing campaign in the history of our union.” He further declared that the union would accelerate its Apprentice Training Program “so that management will have at its call an available supply of trained operating engineers for all its varied and costly equipment.” To help implement his ambitious program and support its organizing efforts, President Delaney created the union’s Department of Research & Education and on August 1, 1958, appointed Brother Lane Kirkland as Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 653 in Mobile, Alabama, work on construction of the foundation for a highrise building in the city during the 1960s. its director. Brother Kirkland, who would later serve as president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. (the A.F.L. and Congress of Industrial Organizations having merged in 1955) from 1979 to 1995, would be the driving force behind establishment of the union’s Central Pension Fund in October 1960, a plan that would grow remarkably throughout the years. The new administration established the I.U.O.E. Canadian Conference in 1959 to promote closer ties between its Canadian locals. That year, the union also officially launched its Nuclear Energy Training Program in San Francisco on July 14, 1959, with the opening of a 10-day instructor-training course. Over the ensuing couple of years, the union added many elements to the program, including the use of radioactive material and appropriate detection and handling instruments procured by the union after it obtained a license from the Atomic Energy Commission to properly and effectively teach radiation-safety techniques. However, passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 had over the ensuing years resulted in multiple states lobbying for and issuing so-called “right-to-work” statutes, by which employees of unionized workplaces were not legally obligated to pay union dues for the union representation they were receiving. Throughout that time and into the late 1950s, the I.U.O.E. had been and was still involved in campaigns fighting the implementation of the anti-union mandates in multiple states, and in 1958 alone the union and its organized-labor allies successfully fended off legislative efforts in California, Washington, Idaho, Colorado and Ohio, although Kansas did pass a “rightto-work” law that year. Looking back on the union’s efforts to combat those movements and others, General President Delaney in his report in the April 1960 International Operating Engineer would even declare, “No legislative problem at the state level posed so great a challenge in recent years as the concerted effort to enact so-called right- LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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