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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 involved 50 industrial contractors, was implemented to shorten construction time requirements on heavy industrial projects, contain costs and provide greater stability in the industry. (2) Later addressing the agreement, General President Turner told attendees at the 1984 I.U.O.E. Convention, “The pact is openly and frankly a response by the unionized sector of the construction industry to recent open-shop advances in the area of industrial plant construction and preserving jobs for union members.” I.U.O.E. Local No. 793 operators work on construction of the SkyPod portion of the CN Tower in Toronto, which when completed in 1976 was the world’s tallest free-standing structure until 2007. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 793 in Ontario, Canada, excavate the site for construction of the CN Tower in Toronto circa 1973. Into and through 1978, the union and much of the country were still feeling the lingering effects of the 1973-1975 recession and its so-called “stagflation,” in which high unemployment and high inflation existed simultaneously. Despite improvements to the economy and construction Graduating apprenticeship class of I.U.O.E. Local No. 99 of Washington, D.C., in 1973. employment, union members all around North America were still concerned about jobs, manpower, and the costs of living. “We still face the overall inflation situation,” President Turner wrote to the membership in the November 1978 International Operating Engineer, “and labor families are the first to face its devastating effects.” During the final years of the 1970s, among the major projects I.U.O.E. locals handled, Local No. 400 was instrumental in the fouryear construction of the largest air-cooled power plant in the world, the 330,000-kilowatt Wyodak Power Plant near Gillette, Wyoming, which was completed in 1978. The following year, operating engineers from Local No. 370 in Spokane, Washington, became the first to make a lift with the world’s largest, landtransportable mobile crane, the Neil F. Lampson company’s Transi-Lift. The members used the mammoth crane, with a 340-foot boom, a 190-foot mast and a capacity of 2,000 tons, to lift a 1,100-ton nuclear reactor pressure vessel 280 feet to place it in a containment building at the under-construction U.S. Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southern Washington state’s Benton County. Then in 1979 during the 60 th Convention of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Building and Construction Trades Department in San Diego, the I.U.O.E. and other building-trades unions launched a massive offensive against the nation’s “union busters,” who for years had been working to put organized construction craftspeople out of work and reduce their collective standard of living. The I.U.O.E. delegates at the convention gave a strong, united voice to the campaign against, as the December 1979 International Operating Engineer described them, “unionbusting contractors, their right-wing political puppets and the corporations that have been masterminding the conspiracy to turn the entire industry into a low-wage, open-shop empire.” Training to Make a Comeback Throughout much of the first half of 1980s, the I.U.O.E. and most building-trades unions struggled in the throes of a severe economic depression that engulfed the country during the first nearly four years of the decade and a continuing anti-union environment. As a result, into the second half of the decade, membership growth LABOR OMNIA VINCIT WORK CONQUERS ALL

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