In the 14th century, Craft Trade Guilds are started by European craftsmen to improve working conditions. Trades workers unite against child labour, long hours and no safety regulations.
Today’s unions are modeled after these early Craft Trade Guilds.
From the mid-1700s to the early 1900s, steam power is widely used. Steam plants are installed in factories and buildings in Europe and North America. Operating engineers operate and repair major steam equipment on construction projects.
Eleven Operating Engineers from eight states meet in Chicago. They unite to improve working conditions in their trade and form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America.
The American Federation of Labour issues a Charter to the newly formed union on December 7, 1896.
Throughout the early 1900s, Canadian workers join the National Union of Steam Engineers of America (along with more American workers). Because of this growth, the union changes its name to the International Union of Steam and Operating Engineers (IUS & OE).
Workers are allowed to work across the Canada-US border.
The International Union of Steam Shovel Operators and Dredgemen and the IUS & OE join forces and become the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).
In the early 1930s, J.E. “Jimmy” Sims, a former Steam Shovel and Dredgemen’s member, is appointed a part-time organizer for the IUOE.
Sims negotiates a contract with the original Coal Valley Mine, which is located just south of Edson.
Jobs in Canada and the United States are scarce and immigration laws get stricter to protect the jobs in each country. Workers no longer have open access to work across the Canada-US border.
In the late 1930s, the contract between IUOE and the Coal Valley Mine ends because of the depression.
Both Canadian and US governments try to control inflation brought on by World War II. The governments freeze prices and wages, and ban employment changes. Workers can’t quit their jobs without suffering severe penalties.
Oilers make 25 cents per hour, carpenters make 75 cents per hour, electricians make 90 cents per hour and operators make $1.25 per hour.
The post-war boom leads to more unionization in the construction industry. Many new local unions are formed across Canada. IUOE issues Local 955 its Charter on October 1, 1948. Ed Wark and Van E. Reeder are Local 955’s International Representatives and are instrumental in negotiating agreements with international contractors that are building refineries near Edmonton (like Kellogg, Braun and Fluor, and Bechtel). Roads, bridges, factories and plants are springing up throughout Western Canada. Local 955 members are working on projects throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and parts of British Columbia. Local 955 members are instrumental in getting these projects done on time. Work begins on the first Big Inch pipeline, which is built from Edmonton to Superior, Wisconsin. Many Local 955 members are hired as operators, and will go on to work more pipeline jobs as operators and in supervisory positions in the United States and around the world.
On December 22, Local 955 re-establishes its agreement with the Coal Valley Mine (now called Sterling Coal Valley Mining).
Irv Nessel is employed as Local 955’s first full-time business representative.
Led by James J. McCambly, Local 933 in southern Alberta is issued its Charter.
Local 955 joins with other Canadian locals to establish the first Canadian national pipeline agreement with the following terms and conditions: Principal Operators - $2.25 per hour Intermediate Operators - $1.75 per hour Oilers - $1.25 per hour 40 hours straight time; 1.5 times for overtime; no pay for travel time; no subsistence allowance.These rates are consistent with those paid in building and industrial construction and about 50 cents per hour higher than the Roadbuilders Association’s rates. Sterling Coal Valley Mining closes down. The mine is soon re-opened by the Luscar Company as Coal Valley Mining. Local 955 once again wins the bargaining rights. A contract is still in place today.
Irv Nessel becomes Local 955’s first elected Business Manager. Nessel is considered the father of our local.
Local 955 negotiates an agreement with Mannix for work on a pipeline going from Edmonton to Provost.
Local 933 and Local 955 merge to form one local union covering all of Alberta.
Local 955 takes its first legal strike to get free room and board for workers staying in camps while on industrial jobs. Camps are charging trades workers about $2.50 per day.
The strike lasts one week. Local 955 wins free room and board for its members.
Great Canadian Oilsands (Suncor) starts construction on the first major oilfield plant Fort McMurray. Bechtel was the general contractor and Mannix did the site preparation for the project.
Local 955 establishes its health and welfare plan at a ten-cents-per-hour contribution
Budd Coutts is Business Manager of Local 955. Under his leadership, Local 955 negotiates its first pension and training plans.
Four stationary locals merge (Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge).
Alberta’s oil sands plants are built. Many new oil fields are discovered, drilled and developed. Demand for natural gas is at an all-time high. Employment opportunities are endless.
Many Alberta-based companies develop expertise in the energy construction field and begin working worldwide building refineries, chemical plants and pipelines.
Local 955’s jurisdiction expands to include the district of Mackenzie in the Northwest Territories.
Local 955 focuses on organizing counties; Paintearth County is the first to join. Throughout late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there is steady growth and momentum – several municipalities and counties join Local 955 to make the sector a vibrant part of the union.
Local 955 rebuilds after experiencing an economic downturn.
Budd Coutts is the first Canadian to be elected General Secretary Treasurer of IUOE.
Local 955 opens new Union Hall building in Edmonton.
Alberta experiences a boom in oil sands development.
Local 955 members are part of site development, construction and expansion of all oil sand plants and mines, which include Suncor, Syncrude, Shell Albian and CNRL.
Chris Flett is Local 955’s Business Manager.
Local 955 has more than 13,000 members.
The IUOE has more than 52,000 members in Canada and more than 327,000 members in the United States.
Unions and Labour Federations continue to protect and improve the quality of life of those working in Alberta and across North America.
Posted on October 16, 2017
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