History of I.U.O.E. Local 132

On the eve of the darkest decade in the history of the United States following the stock market crash of October, 1929, a small group of equipment operators made an unsuccessful attempt to organize and form a local union under charter of the International Union of Operating Engineers.  The Depression and high unemployment rates made organizing almost impossible.  The New Deal administration of President Franklin Roosevelt, from 1933-1940, failed to restore American employment and industrial production to their 1929 levels.  But, by public investment and wholesale restructuring of the economy, above all by accustoming the public to economic leadership from Washington, they prepared the country for a predominant role in the Second World War, which brought complete economic recovery.  The revitalization of economy and the National Labor Relations Act of July 5, 1935 renewed the attempt for workers to organize under the banner of the Operating Engineers.

On May 1, 1935, ten men organized and filed for a charter under the banner of the International Union of Operating Engineers.  This was the formation of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 132, Charleston, West Virginia.  By the end of the year, there were 34 members.  William W. Taylor was elected as the first Business Agent and G.L. Casey was elected President.

By the turn of the decade, 1940, I.U.O.E. Local 132 had approximately 257 members.  As the United States entered World War II, Local 132 membership was on a roller coaster ride.  The Local was at the mercy of Uncle Sam’s needs.  During this era, Local 132 was under the leadership of William W. Taylor and then succeeded by S.H. “Red” Welch, early in 1953.

By the mid 40’s, Local 132 had roving offices in Charleston, Point Pleasant, Parkersburg, New Haven, Wheeling, Hinton and Elkins, West Virginia.  The Local utilized paid stewards in the rural areas to monitor work.  Some of the major projects included:  Elkins Flood Control Dam, Kanawha Airport, Bluestone Dam and the Ohio River bridges.

Entering the 1950’s, Local 132 was in stable growth.  H.L. Melton became Business Manager replacing S.H. “Red” Welch.  B.B. Murphy fell into the Assistant Business Manager job.  At this time, Local 132 had offices in Wheeling and St. Albans.  During the winter of 1953, B.B. Murphy became Business Manager as H.L. Melton stepped down.  William White was installed as the Assistant Business Manager.  An office in Clarksburg was opened in mid 1954.  The Charleston office, at this time, was located at 115 Court Street.  Major projects of the decade:  DuPont Plant, Keyser, Sutton Dam, Various pipeline jobs, steel mills in the Northern Panhandle, Phillip Sporn Power Plant, Glasgow, West Virginia Turnpike and Green Bank Observatory.

The decade of social and ethical reform and the escalation of the Vietnam War brought change to the United States that had not been seen before.  Local 132 had a change in leadership following the election of July, 1958.  Joseph L. Handley was installed as Business Manager, to begin a reign of 31 years at the helm of Local 132.  This was for the purpose to provide a health and welfare program.  The Health & Welfare and the Pension Fund was incorporated in following collective bargaining agreements in the early 1960’s.

A need for worker representation was becoming more prevalent with the increase of activity of equipment service shops, industrial service companies, aggregate and sand companies, and other specialty companies involved in the construction industry.  Local 132 was granted a C-Branch charter from the International Union of Operating Engineers on the first of November 1960.  The workers of companies of companies such as:  Vecellio  & Grogan Equipment Shop, Walker Machinery, Beckwith Service, Rish Equipment, and the International Mill Service signed on to Local 132C for representation during the next two decades.

At the beginning of 1963, the Bureau of Public Roads announced that the Interstate Highway System was about one third complete.  Major projects of this decade was:  Interstates 77 and 64, major upgrades to U.S. Route 50, Fort Martin Power Plant, General Motors Plant, Mount Storm Power Plant, Summersville Dam, John Amos Power Plant, various bank buildings, Charleston House Holiday Inn, Racine Locks and Dam, Obekiski, Hannibal Locks and Dams, the DuPont Plant at Belle and the Naval Radar Station at Sugar Grove.

The decade of the 70’s brought on a rapid growth of members to Local 132.  The Interstate system was in full construction and with increased demand for electricity, major power generating plants were being built at numerous sites in West Virginia.  The need for skilled operators in West Virginia was at an all time high.  On the down side, a wage-price freeze was announced by President Richard Nixon in February 1971, a program that was to last until November 1971.  Operating Engineers made it clear that they would participate in the wage-price freeze program, even though it voided legal employee-employer contracts made in good faith.  In the process I.U.O.E. Local 132 lost wages and benefits.  Local 132 started an Apprenticeship Program in 1965, but it was not until 1971 that a fully committed apprenticeship program and training facility was opened with Charles W. “Chuck” McKay at the helm.  Business Manager Handley established his leadership of Local 132 with the International and was selected to serve as an International Trustee.  At the end of the 1970’s, Local 132 had 3,529 members.  Major projects of the decade included New Haven 1301, Pleasants, Harrison 3rd unit Mount Storm, Mitchell Plant, New River Gorge Bridge, Burnsville Dam, R.D. Bailey Dam, major upgrades to Raleigh County Airport, I-77, I-64, I-79, U.S. Route 50, Point Pleasant and St. Mary’s Bridges.

Entering the decade of the 1980s and Reaganomics, Local 132 faced one of their toughest challenges in its existence.  The construction industry in West Virginia had fallen on extreme hard times.  Fierce competition between non-union and union contractors on a smaller market share prevailed into a hard money situation. Before this most major projects were cost plus.  The union contractors struggled to adjust to the changing industry.  Many simply could not and fell by the way. The incorporation of project labor agreements and modifications to the local agreements slowly enabled Local 132 to be competitive in a bottom dollar industry.

During this decade the leadership of Local 132 was with Business Manager Joseph Handley, who had moved up to Sixth Vice-President of the International Union of Operating Engineers.  Alan B. Tarpley defeated Joseph Handley for Business Manager in August of 1989 to end his 31 years of control of Local 132.  Major projects of the decade included the Town Center Mall, Morgantown Mall, Pipelines in Logan and Beckley, precipitator added to Mount Storm, Memorial Tunnel Bypass, East End Bridge, Weirton Suspension Bridge, Route 97 in Wyoming County, Mabscott Interchange in Raleigh County and completion of I-64.

The United States entered the 1990s, the last decade of the twentieth century, with increased concerns of environmental issues.  The implementation of Acts and Standards such as The Clean Air Bill, created a large amount of work in the electrical utilities.  Business Manager Tarpley recognized the need for changes to regain strength in the construction industry.  Local 132 utilized project labor agreements and modifications to local agreements to capture this work.

The Annuity Fund was added to the Health & Welfare and Pension Benefit package in June 1993.  The Local 132 Pension Fund grew at a rapid rate from increased contributions and bullish returns in this decade.

Business Manager Alan B. Tarpley suddenly passed away on July 4, 1999.  Assistant Business Manager Ronald L. Burdette was selected to lead Local 132 into the 21st Century.  There were 2,718 members in Local 132 entering the year 2000.  Major projects included the FBI National Fingerprint Center, Mt. Olive Penitentiary, Grant Town, Morgantown and North Branch Co-Generation Plants, S2O Scrubbers, Harrison Power Plant, Belleville Hydro Electric, Southern Regional Jail, Winfield Locks-Dam, Matewan and Williamson Flood Walls, and major upgrades to U.S. Route 19.

The first decade of the 21st Century provided numerous job opportunities for our Local. Under the skillful leadership of Business Manager Ronald L. Burdette, the Local regained lost market share in the highway sector. In 2001 Business Manager Burdette hired two full-time organizers to combat the non-union element in our state.  In 2007 Local 132 President, Assistant Business Manager and Apprenticeship & Training Director, David Mullins, resigned to accept appointment as West Virginia Commissioner of Labor. Tommy Plymale assumed the position of Assistant Business Manager and Charles Parker became Apprenticeship & Training Director. Tom Halfin would serve as President until his death in 2008.

Environmental concerns of the late 20th Century carried over to the 21st Century. Most of the power generating plants in the state saw an unprecedented amount of upgrades to their facilities. This provided an enormous amount of jobs for our members. Wind farm construction in Tucker, Grant, Randolph and Greenbrier counties provided “green jobs” for many operators in our Local. Other major projects of the decade included the casino at Mountaineer Gaming in Chester, Cabelas/Highlands near Wheeling, widening of Route 2 in Brooke and Marshall counties, installation of scrubbers and SCR’s at Mt. Storm, upgrades to Mitchell and Pleasants Power Plants, Corridor H in Grant and Hardy counties, upgrades to Route 9 in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, the C-5 Runway Extension Project in Martinsburg, King Coal Highway in Mercer County, Marmet Locks, Yeager Airport Runway and Taxiway Safety Improvements, Coalfields Expressway in Raleigh County, upgrades to Route 10 in Logan County, Summersville Hydro Project, National Guard Armory in Summersville, site work for National Guard Armory in Glen Jean, site work for the Federal Prison in McDowell County, continuing upgrades to the Bluestone Dam and Connersville Dam, CertainTeed Gypsum Plant in Marshall County and the two billion dollar  Longview Power Plant at Maidsville.

In September of 2010, forty year member and Business Manager, Ronald L. Burdette, retired after twenty-one years of service to the Local. Tommy Plymale was elected Business Manager and Rodney Marsh became Assistant Business Manager.