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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

INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS have produced over 1.2 billion manhours of work, and overall, they have provided more work for building tradesmen than any other national agreements. In 1974, I.U.O.E. Fourth Vice-President Russell T. Conlon, a member of Seattle’s Local No. 302, represented the union in negotiations for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Agreement, which among other things guaranteed that construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (also known as the Alaskan Pipeline) would use an all-union workforce. Beginning the next year, thousands of I.U.O.E. members, working under the jurisdictions of Local No. 2 of St. Louis and Local No. 302, played major roles in bringing to fruition the demanding project, which in addition to the main line included building highways, pump stations and feeder lines through at-times challenging terrain and often in difficult weather conditions. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 463 in Niagara Falls, New York, build the cofferdam that shut down the American Falls on the Niagara River in June 1969 for maintenance. (Photos courtesy of Niagara Falls Thunder Alley/www.niagarafrontier.com.) Once fully completed in 1977, the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline spanned the state from north to south to deliver oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. An article in the Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 132 of Charleston, West Virginia, gather outside the local’s training facility in Medina, West Virginia, in 1970. August 1977 International Operating Engineer subsequently announced: “After a three-year battle against the obstacles of both nature and man, operating engineers have helped make the largest, privately funded construction project in history an awe-inspiring technological reality.” I.U.O.E. membership reached a record level of 420,000 members in the mid-1970s, but that plateau would not last long as a series of economic recessions caused by inflation and an energy shortage hit the United States and Canada, crippling construction and slowing down commercial expansion. The deteriorating conditions helped spur a corresponding rise of non-union, open-shop contractors. In his book Union Resilience in Troubled Times: The Story of the Operating Engineers, 1960-1993, Professor Mangum points out that union policies and practices also contributed greatly to the “growth of the open-shop movement.” He states that by the mid-1970s, union-won wage and fringe-benefit increases were far above the inflation rate; a bulk of construction activity had moved to the suburbs and beyond; locals were reluctant to make appropriate concessions; administration of labor laws had become conservative; openshop contractors were being admitted into associations “that once operated solely union;” and there was a “switch” in contractor policies regarding “double-breasting” all of which contributed to the growth of non-union competition. (2) As it grew, union contractors began double-breasting by creating non-union subsidiaries to compete in markets in which project owners refused to deal with union contractors or payment of union wages and benefits would prevent successful bidding. (2) LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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