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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 health insurance and pension provisions, the new program was created because smaller locals that lacked the membership to sponsor a pension plan were being left without retirement benefits for members. Initially, Local No. 501 of Los Angeles was used as a base for the Central Pension Fund into which other locals could join. (By 1992, the plan’s assets totaled billion, and it was paying close to 0 million in annual benefits to 35,000 beneficiaries.) (2) Other developments during that time included the I.U.O.E. combining services in 1962 to form the Department of Organization, Research and Education for greater effectiveness in those areas. Brother Reese Hammond, former head of the Research and Education Department and a member of Local No. 94 in New York City, was named to lead the new group. Out in the field during the early 1960s, I.U.O.E. members were being kept busy on jobs that included constructing U.S. Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (I.C.B.M.) bases throughout the country. Also of note, members were operating one of the most completely automated electrical power complexes in the world, the Meramec Power Generating Plant in South St. Louis, after it went online in 1961. Tragedy struck the union’s general office once again when General President Delaney died suddenly on September 9, 1962, at age 65. The union’s 12-member Executive Board unanimously elected General Secretary-Treasurer Hunter P. Wharton to take over the presidency. Jobs, Goals Reach for the Sky Into 1963 and under new leadership, a great number of I.U.O.E. engineers were at work in all parts of the country on pipeline construction, while others were still working in just about every part of the nation on the Interstate Highway System, which was about one-third complete at the beginning of the year. To supply the rapid growth of the use of electricity on its power grid, the Tennessee Valley Authority had -million worth of transmission facilities under construction with a major use of I.U.O.E. members, and union engineers were also performing a high volume of work to shore up the nation’s military defense installations. E.P.E.C. Formed in 1967 COMMITTEE HELPS WIELD UNION’S POLITICAL STRENGTH The I.U.O.E. established its own political education organization, the Engineers Political Education Committee or E.P.E.C., in April 1967. Its initial officers were I.U.O.E. General President Hunter P. Wharton as chairman, General Secretary- Treasurer Newell J. Carman as secretary-treasurer and Executive Vice-President Richard H. Nolan as vice chairman. The union’s General Executive Board first acted on forming the committee during its September 23, 1966, meeting when Brother Carman made a motion to create the committee “to further, directly and indirectly, the joint interest of the members of the International Union in the betterment of general economic and social conditions in the world, by engaging in legislative, political, educational, civic, welfare and other appropriate activities.” The motion was duly seconded, put to a vote and unanimously adopted by the board. “In recent years, legislation which demands the attention of labor has resulted in more and more participation in politics by our people,” General President Wharton explained shortly after the committee was created. “The formation of E.P.E.C. is one mechanism whereby our people can express in a tangible form their wish to support the friends and penalize the enemies of labor.” The E.P.E.C. took its first action in mid-April 1967 when Secretary-Treasurer Carman sent out receipt books to all locals of the I.U.O.E. to be used for voluntary contributions by individual members to the E.P.E.C. The goal of the organization was to receive at least per member in voluntary contributions, while not pressuring any member to donate. I.U.O.E. Executive Vice President Richard H. Nolan (left), General Secretary-Treasurer Newell J. Carman (center) and General President Hunter P. Wharton make the first voluntary contributions to the new I.U.O.E. Engineers Political Education Committee in 1967. Since first organizing the E.P.E.C., the union has continued to operate the federal committee by raising money through voluntary contributions from its members and their families. The I.U.O.E. then uses those funds to back political candidates who support the interests of the union and organized labor in general, including critical issues such as infrastructure investments, prevailing-wage standards, healthcare, training and worker safety. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 14 in Flushing, New York, construct the iconic Unisphere for the 1964 World’s Fair. But that year, it was perhaps the February 12 start and subsequent construction of the 630-foot-high Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which operating engineers from Local No. 513 would play a key role in raising, that garnered the most attention. Manning special hoisting “creeper cranes” that crawled up the two opposing legs of the structure as each was erected before meeting at the top, the I.U.O.E. members and their special skills were key factors in the success of the job. Completed on October 28, 1965, the now-iconic monument at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial overlooking the western banks of the Mississippi River is the world’s tallest arch and the highest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere. Union engineers also began work on the Oroville Dam on the Feather River east of Oroville, California, in 1961, which when completed in 1968 would be the tallest dam in the United States. The operators essentially moved mountains during the project, surpassing the record of ton-miles of materials moved on any other earth-transporting project in modern history by ten times. The 1964 I.U.O.E. Convention in San Francisco was a high point of that year, with the union’s great strides in organizing setting a pattern for conference activity. Afterwards in remarks in an article in the December 1964 International Operating Engineer, General President Wharton summed up 1964 as a “Year of Achievement,” during which the union and its roughly 290,000-strong membership had relatively effective control of its construction jurisdiction. With construction work during the mid- 1960s at all-time record levels, the operating engineers continued to place an increased emphasis on job safety. Its efforts at both the international and local levels were consequently recognized several times, including General President Wharton receiving a plaque for distinguished service at the 1965 Labor Conference of the National Safety Council. (Continued after following "Training & Education" section.) LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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