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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 Double-breasting, the union contractor practice of setting up non-union affiliates to avoid dealing with union workers who performed the same work in the past, had also become more prevalent during the first half of the 1980s, depriving more I.U.O.E. members of jobs. To fight double-breasting, the union was at the forefront of a broad, national campaign for the adoption of U.S. House Resolution 281, the Construction Industry Contract Security Act, which would have ended the unscrupulous scheme. But while the House version passed in 1987, the U.S. Senate version of the bill was stalled in the 1990s. Meanwhile, President Turner stepped down on May 31, 1985, for health reasons and was succeeded by then-Sixth Vice-President Dugan, a member of Local No. 428 in Phoenix. The new general president continued the union’s aggressive response against membership decline and non-union progress. To those ends, in February 1986 the union’s General Executive Board unanimously approved the first phase of a long-term organizing plan that President Dugan prepared to rebuild membership rolls and recapture a substantial share of the construction industry market. In making organizing the union’s top priority, organizer training would be the foundation of the new program. Action steps immediately taken through the plan included investing -million to hire and train full-time international organizers and personnel from local unions, whose initial training took place at the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s George Meany Labor Studies Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1986. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 30 of New York and Connecticut show their support for U.S. presidential candidate Jimmy Carter during a political rally in 1976. Members of I.U.O.E. Local No. 406 in New Orleans perform dragline work in April 1975 to dig a hole during excavation of the site for Louisiana’s first nuclear power plant, the Waterford Steam Electric Station located just west of the city, for which the operating engineers eventually moved millions of tons of dirt. President Dugan further wholly supported I.U.O.E. locals’ countermeasures that manifested in 1986 alone into numerous strikes across the country by locals from Philadelphia to Santa Monica, California; from Seattle to Danville, Illinois; and from Houston to Indiana, Pennsylvania, to name a few. Endorsing those labor actions and others by operating engineers, he declared in nearly every issue of The International Operating Engineer that year and in 1987: “Right-wing extremists in North America are attempting to make strong unions weak and to destroy weak unions. We have no intention of letting them do either.” What’s more, former General President Turner’s report to the union’s 1984 Convention in April 1984 in Hollywood, Florida, advocated that at least 20 of the union’s 69 stationary locals that were without full-time staff be merged. (At the time, the union also had 48 stationary LABOR OMNIA VINCIT locals that had full-time staffs.) Within the remainder of the decade, that objective was mostly achieved. (2) The union’s efforts stabilized its membership beginning in 1987, and before the end of the decade, its numbers showed a “respectable increase” the first months of 1989, as General President Dugan described in the April 1989 International Operating Engineer. What’s more, more members were working, and the union did not relax as the president also declared, “We want to create an environment that when there is dirt to be moved, structures to be hoisted, buildings to be maintained, the I.U.O.E. and its union contractors do the work.” The work that was being performed by union operating engineers in 1989 included Local No. 25 mitigating a large oil spill in the Delaware River after a fully loaded tanker ran aground on June 22 and released more than 380,000 gallons of oil into the waterway. Once the I.U.O.E. members were on the scene WORK CONQUERS ALL

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