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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 ability to keep an adequate organizing staff in the field. (1) “None of the efforts of the local unions to fence in the power of the international officers by constitutional restrictions was as effective as their tight grasp on the purse strings,” Professor Mangum even declares in The Economic History of a Trade Union. In effect, locals fiscally strapping the international officers would generally continue until after 1940. “Each convention brought numerous resolutions calling upon the international to assign organizers to certain regions, and calls for aid continued between conventions,” as The Economic History of a Trade Union describes. “Yet the membership shared the universal preference for receiving services without paying the necessary costs.” New Success in a New Century Meanwhile, the I.U.S.E. was also greatly hindered by the anti-union open-shop movement that persisted in the United States. In particular, the actions of the National Association of Stationary Engineers (which would change its name in 1928 to the National Association of Power Engineers) stifled the union as the association openly allied with the anti-union efforts of some I.U.S.E. signatory employers. The union was also involved in the fight for a standardized eight-hour workday, having already during its 1899 convention in Boston set May 1, 1900, as “the time for the inauguration of the eight-hour system.” While that objective did not come to fruition, in 1902 the union accelerated demands for Members of International Union of Steam Engineers Local No. 4 of Boston work on construction of the Cape Cod Canal in Massachusetts, which was built from June 1909 into July 1914 to connect Cape Cod Bay in the north to Buzzards Bay in the south. the eight-hour day, even carrying the fight to the U.S. Congress. (The engineers and all of labor would continue that fight until Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which limited the workweek to 44 hours before overtime wages would be paid, on June 25, 1938, and amended the law to limit the workweek to 40 hours on June 26, 1940.) During that time, the engineers’ union was also fending off jurisdictional challenges from the unions of brewery workers, stationary firemen and coal miners. At the I.U.S.E. Sixth Annual Convention held September 2, 1902, in Pittsburgh, General President George V. Lighthall, while reporting advances made by the union, also discussed the jurisdictional disputes between engineers and those unions. While the A.F.L. had recently ruled that the International Union of Brewery Workers could not claim jurisdiction over steam engineers employed in breweries - a decision that convention delegates praised - difficulties with the brewery workers continued. I.U.S.E. Canadian locals were also having similar troubles with the brewery workers, compelling the A.F.L. to issue a new directive in the spring of 1903 that declared, “We are convinced beyond question that the United Brewery Workers’ International Union seriously errs and stands in the way of its own success, provoking antagonism from sources which could and should be fraternal, helpful and cooperative, if it voluntarily and broadmindedly gave its full adhesion to the recommendations and decisions of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor.” Despite the jurisdictional disturbances, the I.U.S.E. enjoyed steady growth and relative success in both the United States and Canada. In fact, steam-engineer delegates to the Canadian Labour Congress in 1903 succeeded in changing the congress’ by-laws to require all local unions, irrespective of previous affiliations, to belong to a national or international organization chartered by the A.F.L. in order to hold seats in the Canadian Congress. According to the I.U.O.E. 50 th anniversary essay in the December 1946 International Engineer journal, the amendment marked the first time in the history of the congress that Canadian engineers “claimed recognition as factors in the labor movement.” During 1903, the I.U.S.E. also approved 95 applications for new charters and 50 new contract agreements for locals. Before the year was out, the union further added roughly 10,000 new engineers to its international membership. With its increasing strength, during the union’s international convention held at Wheeling, West Virginia, from September 12 to 20, 1903, delegates unanimously passed a resolution through which the union would wield its new-found power to entice manufacturers to place advertisements in the union’s monthly magazine. The degree declared, “Resolved, that we demonstrate to the world our belief in the great principles of unionism of assisting those who are willing to assist us, by every member hereafter, confining his purchases and recommendations (where prices, efficiency and deliveries are equal) exclusively to those whose friendship for the organization is shown by having their names appear monthly in the official ‘Of Whom to Buy’ Index published in the International Steam Engineer, our official journal.” Subsequently, the union sent communications from General President Bruner to businesses suggesting they consider advertising in journals while also explaining, in so many words, that the union was in a strong position to advocate on their behalf to potential buyers of their products. In addition to the resolution being transcribed in the letter, it further read, in part, “… today, our members control the purchase of more machinery and supplies than any body of men in the known world … We note on going over the above-mentioned Index that the name of your company does not appear LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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