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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 President Turner stated in a letter to the membership in the January 1976 International Operating Engineer, “is a stepped-up emphasis on organization.” However, the economic consequences of the politics of U.S. President Gerald R. Ford’s administration, which ended the promise of wage stabilization, were a major setback for the I.U.O.E., which opened the door for the non-union sector of the industry. (2) “Following Ford’s veto of the Economic Rights of Labor legislation and John Dunlop’s resignation as secretary of labor, construction labor costs rose until there were incentives and opportunities for a successful open-shop incursion into the organized sectors of the construction industry that caused substantial membership declines in the 1970s and 1980s,” Union Resilience in Troubled Times explains. As a result, between 1975 and 1988, the union suffered a loss of 54,108 members, although during that same period, stationary membership increased by nearly 10,000 to almost 100,000. The union had been increasing its use of maintenance agreements to secure that work for members over the first half of the 1970s, although by that time, unionized maintenance was often being performed in facilities in which the operating personnel were non-union. (2) By 1976, the international office had settled such agreements with 57 contractors and 117 projects, up from 41 contracts covering 103 locations in the United States and Canada in 1968. Similar agreements were settled with commercial and industrial maintenance contractors, onshore and offshore oil drillers, and railroad maintenance and construction (and later, nuclear power, bridge, and stack and chimney construction) contractors. (2) Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 30, which covers parts of New York and Connecticut, strike against the Rheingold Brewery in Brooklyn in June 1973. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 318 in Marion, Illinois, work on construction of the Smithland Locks and Dam, the first structure of its size built on the Ohio River, during the early 1970s. The I.U.O.E. in 1976 was involved in “one of the most significant dual-shop decisions rendered by the National Labor Relations Board (N.L.R.B.),” according to Union Resilience in Troubled Times, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision by a lower court overruling the N.L.R.B. in a case concerning Local No. 627 of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In reversing the board’s decision, the courts defined the “singleemployer” concept by establishing the criteria by which a subsidiary can be independent of the parent corporation, a necessity in determining the relationship between the employer and the employees in collective-bargaining agreements. The case stemmed from a 1972 complaint filed with the N.L.R.B. by the local in which it alleged that the South Prairie Construction Company had violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to apply the collective-bargaining agreement the union had with Peter Kiewit Sons’ Company (now Kiewit), which operated South Prairie, to its LABOR OMNIA VINCIT employees. Local No. 627 contended that because both companies had a common owner, they constituted a “single” employer under the act. Since the N.L.R.B. considered both subsidiaries separate entities, it erroneously ruled that the employees of South Prairie, a highway contractor, were not covered by the collective-bargaining agreement the union had with Kiewit, also a highway contractor. “This happens all over the country,” Local No. 627 Business Manager Gerald Ellis stated after the Supreme Court decision. “Companies set up one non-union subsidiary to compete with their union subsidiary. Now these non-union subsidiaries have to abide by the union agreement.” Two years later in 1978, the I.U.O.E. and seven other building trades unions signed the National Industrial Construction Agreement with the National Constructors’ Association. The pact, which initially WORK CONQUERS ALL

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