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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. 513 in St. Louis operate crawler cranes to erect the Gateway Arch in 1964 and 1965 as part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the west bank of the Mississippi River. (Photos credit: Arteaga Photos LTD.) I.U.O.E. Local No. 513 members who worked on the Gateway Arch included (left to right) Jerry Cottrell, crane operator; James Purl, oiler; William Quigley and Luther Fritts, derrick operators; and Leo Covington, compressor operator. (Photo credit: Arteaga Photos LTD.) In another presentation, the union’s operating engineers were honored for their safety record in the construction of the Barkley Dam along the Cumberland River at Paducah, Kentucky, before its completion in 1966. The increased construction pace that continued into that year was further bolstered by passage in 1965 of federal education legislation providing grants for a five-year, .8-billion program for construction of community educational centers. Much of the funding was channeled into immediate work throughout the country that would be performed by I.U.O.E. members. However, the buildup of American involvement in the Vietnam War, a conflict ongoing since 1955 between U.S.-supported South Vietnam and communist Soviet Union- LABOR OMNIA VINCIT and China-supported North Vietnam, had escalated by 1965. Before the war would end with the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam, on April 30, 1975, many I.U.O.E. members would be involved while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and especially the Navy’s Seabees construction units. In North America during the mid-1960s, remarkable construction was taking place under jurisdiction of the National Space and Aeronautics Administration (NASA), and no project was more spectacular than the Vertical Assembly Building at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida that was erected with the help of I.U.O.E. members from 1963 to 1966. The 52-story tall facility, in which the Saturn V rocket and Apollo 11 spacecraft that carried man’s first voyage to the moon beginning July 16, 1969, were assembled, would contain some 98,600 tons of steel and was the largest building in the world when completed. (The Vertical Assembly Building continues in 2021 to serve as the central hub of NASA’s multi-user spaceport, having previously served for 30 years as the final assembly point for its space shuttles to external fuel tanks and solid-rocket boosters.) Meanwhile, Canada was experiencing a surge in dam building, which put many I.U.O.E. members to work. Those projects included construction of the dual-dam, multi-use, power-generating South Saskatchewan River Development Project that was completed in June 1967 with its Gardiner Dam as one of the largest earth-fill dams in the world; and the Churchill Falls Generating Station in Labrador, one of the largest dams and power stations on the North American continent and in 2021 the second-largest in Canada after it was built from 1967 until 1974. Additionally, growing nuclear construction in the country was also performed by union operating engineers, some of whom manned the world’s tallest tower-type cranes to construct WORK CONQUERS ALL

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