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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. 148 of St. Louis prepare to move a lowpressure turbine for the Labadie Power Plant near Labadie, Missouri, in 1971. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 18 in Cleveland break while on a jobsite in August 1971. “Rising unemployment rates in the 1970s forced union members to work non-union in some areas of the country,” Union Resilience in Troubled Times explains, “and moribund union organizing programs resulted in the loss of union contracts, especially in highway and multiple-family residential construction. … So successful was that customer-led rebellion that the construction industry went from 42 percent to 22 percent union in just 20 years.” However, the I.U.O.E. did not experience as much loss to the non-union sector than the other building and construction trades because the operating engineers’ primary source of employment was government-financed heavy and highway, rather than private industrial and building, construction. (2) Regardless, I.U.O.E. membership had started a regression that would decline from nearly 419,000 in 1975 to a low of around 359,000 in 1987. But in 1975, the union held its first annual I.U.O.E. National Hoisting and Portable Safety Conference in Countryside, Illinois, which featured representatives of several health and safety organizations. The 18 conference delegates from various locals and the international headquarters passed a number of strong motions calling for increased safety standards. By 1979, the symposium would develop into the annual I.U.O.E. Safety, Accident-Prevention and Health Conference. Countering the ‘Union Busters’ Anti-union attitudes and non-union competition were broadening in the United States when General Secretary- Treasurer J. C. Turner succeeded the retiring Brother Wharton as I.U.O.E. general president in January 1976 but the union’s newest leader was not discouraged. “The answer,” General LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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