“It is important to pause and take a look at where we came from, and where we are going. History allows us to look in the mirror, to take our pulse and, in doing so, shed light on our present and investigate our vision of where we can go in the future as an organization.”
– Business Manager Russ Burns (quote from Breaking Ground)
The History of Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3
This full-color hard cover book presents a decade-by-decade look at the extraordinary 70-year journey of the largest construction union in the United States. A limited number of copies are available through your district office so act fast.
This taken from the IUOE web site
Working conditions for construction and stationary workers in the late 1800s were at one of the lowest points in our nation’s labor history, since wages for 60- to 90-hour workweeks were miserable, and benefits were non-existent.
In an effort to change those conditions, a small group of stationary engineers met in Chicago, Dec. 7, 1896 and formed the National Union of Steam Engineers of America. The founders of this union shared a common skill: they could operate dangerous steam boilers – the main source of power at this time.
When the union expanded across the border into Canada in 1897, the name was changed to the International Union of Steam Engineers. The crafted skills of these union members were in high demand during the major rebuilding effort after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Thousands of engineers played a major role in digging the Panama Canal from 1904-1914.
As members began working more with internal combustion engines, electric motors, hydraulic machinery and refrigerating systems, the word “steam” was dropped from the union’s name, and in 1928, it became the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The steam gauge of the IUOE logo still exists today and serves as a tribute to the union’s founders.
Many small unions were formed and chartered by the IUOE in the early 1900s. These branch charters were issued so that all local unions could organize the unorganized and control industrial and economic contacts that would connect to the work of Operating Engineers. By the 1930s, there were 14 different Operating Engineers locals in California.
On Jan. 30, 1939, the IUOE General Executive Board meeting was held to discuss the issue of these charters and whether the local should keep issuing more of them for the hoisting and portable jurisdiction. Visionaries Vic Swanson and Al Clem were in attendance, and both would play major roles in the future of Local 3.
IUOE General President Possehl suggested that the hoisting and portable jurisdiction merge into two large locals, one in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles, with the states of California and Nevada as the territorial jurisdiction. This would establish a universal initiation fee, dues, wages, hours and working conditions and the opportunity for members to move throughout the two states on building and construction work with signatory employers.The business representatives of the existing locals agreed that establishing two proposed unions would create freedom so the members could follow construction work. The merge would give the smaller locals a larger, more uniformed power with a single vision. On Jan. 31, 1939, these 14 smaller locals in California and Nevada merged into Local 3. Locals from Nevada, Utah and Hawaii joined the union a few years later.
Landmark events in Local 3’s history
- Local 3 signed its first contract with Associated General Contractors in 1940; it provided prevailing wages from $1.10 to $1.67 an hour.
- In 1943, the members elected Vic Swanson as Local 3’s first business manager, and the first Engineers News was published and has been published on a monthly basis ever since.
- In 1953, health and welfare contributions were at seven and one half cents an hour. Pension contributions followed in 1958 at ten cents an hour, and it was not long before the first pension benefits were paid out in 1960 at $60.00 a month. These early contributions to the health and welfare and pension funds helped lay the foundation of what we have today – the best benefits any local has to offer.
- The Rancho Murieta Training Center was opened in 1969 as the home of Local 3’s apprenticeship and training programs.
- In 1998, supplemental dues were implemented to help bring the local back to a solid financial foundation. Along with this financial security, came the opening of additional training centers in Nevada, Utah and Hawaii.
- In 2006, the new administration was elected in a landslide victory as the members voted for change. Incoming Business Manager Russ Burns and the officers pledged to increase communications to the membership by making Local 3 a more transparent and fiscally responsible organization.
- In 2007, a member-elected Bylaws Committee recommended the dues reduction that the membership voted on and overwhelmingly passed, making it the first-ever dues reduction in the history of Local 3.
* * *
From the original 1,000 members, Local 3 now represents more than 42,000 workers that include operating engineers, including crane operators, mechanics, surveyors, miners and public employees.
From the 1939 vision of unity, power and protection, Local 3 has emerged today stronger than ever. There is no better time than the present to be a member of the largest construction local in the United States, Operating Engineers Local 3.
Note: Portions of the above are excerpts from the IUOE Web site, www.iuoe.org.