Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Operating Engineers

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Operating Engineers.

Name of Union: International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)

Mission: To serve the needs and develop the skills of a constantly expanding and varied group of construction and maintenance professionals through collective bargaining, legislative action and extensive skills training programs.

Current Leadership of Union: James T. Callahan serves as the general president of IUOE. He was first elected in 2011. Previously, he served as international vice president and business manager of IUOE Local 15 in New York. Callahan was one of many operating engineers who responded immediately on 9/11, and he worked the entire recovery effort at Ground Zero.

Brian E. Hickey serves as general secretary-treasurer. IUOE also has 14 vice presidents: Russell E. Burns, James M. Sweeney, Robert T. Heenan, Daniel J. McGraw, Daren Konopaski, Michael Gallagher, Greg Lalevee, Terrance E. McGowan, Randall G. Griffin, Douglas W. Stockwell, Ronald J. Sikorski, James T. Kunz Jr., Edward J. Curly and Charlie Singletary.

Current Number of Members: 400,000.

Members Work As: Members who are operating engineers work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors in the construction industry. Stationary engineers work in operations and maintenance in building and industrial complexes.

Industries Represented: Private industry and in various public projects such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and government complexes.

History: In the late 1800s, working conditions were harsh for construction and stationary workers. Low wages, no benefits and 6090 hour workweeks were the norm. In 1896, 11 individuals met in Chicago and formed the National Union of Steam Engineers of America, the first step in the creation of IUOE.

A year later, the union admitted Canadian workers and became the International Union of Steam Engineers. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, operating engineers flocked to the city for rebuilding jobs. They also were a key part of digging the Panama Canal.

In 1912, the union changed its name to the International Union of Steam and Operating Engineers. As technology advanced, steam became less a part of the industry and "steam" was dropped.

During the era of the two world wars and beyond, IUOE members were a significant part of the defense effort, from the Navy Seabees, who created the bases, airfields and roads, to the federal Highway Trust program, which created thousands of jobs for operating engineers. They also were part of many other important construction projects, including San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Chicago’s Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower in 2009), Toronto’s CN Tower and Sky Dome (renamed Rogers Centre), New York’s Empire State Building and Holland Tunnel, the Statue of Liberty, Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge, the Alaskan pipeline, the Hoover Dam and countless others.

Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: IUOE runs extensive training programs and maintains the International Training and Education Center. They also focus on recruiting women workers in apprenticeships. The International Operating Engineer publication provides information and news for working people in the industry.

Learn More: Website.