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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 and I.U.O.E. Safety Director Alan Burch was named one of three commissioners to serve on the Review Commission of the new Occupational Safety and Health program. One of the highlights of the union’s construction jobs that year was members’ use of helicopters to help speed work on a new, parallel span to the original Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which connects Maryland’s Eastern Shore region with its Western Shore. The 4.3-mile older span had opened in 1952 and was still the world’s longest continuous, overwater steel structure when the new bridge was completed on June 28, 1973. Sadly, however, seven I.U.O.E. members and 10 union laborers died on June 24, 1971, in a fire and explosion in a large water tunnel in which they were working near the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar. The disaster occurred at 1:05 a.m. as the night-shift crew was drilling in a water tunnel for the Los Angeles supply system 250 feet below ground and a pocket of methane gas was ignited, after which the heat, gas and lack of oxygen “made rescue impossible,” according to a report in the July 1971 International Operating Engineer. The operating engineers lost that day were Los Angeles Local No. 12 brothers John Drobot, Jose R. Carrasco, Alvin H. Streen, William R. Snodgrass, Gary A. Nichols and Robert W. Warner, and Brother William I. Ashe of Local No. 3 in San Francisco. The following year, during which the union’s membership reached an increase of 100,000 more members than it had 10 years earlier, the I.U.O.E. initiated its first National Maintenance Agreement. A collectivebargaining blueprint, the agreement was developed to create, preserve, expand and improve work opportunities for operators in the maintenance industry; it would cover work defined as maintenance, repair, replacement, rehabilitation and renovation. Since 1972, the union’s National Maintenance Agreements Sister Candace “Candy” Martin, shown here working as a surveying “instrument man” on construction of the John Hancock Tower in Boston in July 1971, was one of the first female I.U.O.E. members when she became the first female member of Local No. 4 of Boston during the late 1960s. (Boston Globe photos courtesy of Northeastern Universities Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department.) 450000 420000 390000 360000 330000 I.U.O.E. Membership Throughout The Years 398,420 300000 270000 240000 210000 180000 150000 120000 90000 60000 30000 0 1897 788 1903 1908 1913 1918 1923 1928 1933 1938 1942 1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1975 1979 1983 1987 1992 1996 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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