Operating Engineers Elect Callahan To First Full Term As President; Trumka Pledges Infrastructure Job Fight

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. —Delegates to the Operating Engineers convention unanimously elected James Callahan, who stepped up to the union’s presidency to fill an unexpired term, to his first full term as head of the 400,000-member union, on May 1. They also elected Brian Hickey as Secretary-Treasurer, the union’s #2 post.

In his inaugural address to 600 union delegates, meeting in Hollywood, Fla., Callahan vowed to increase the union’s emphasis on organizing and on investing in “innovative solutions” to infrastructure problems “that will create jobs and pay a fair wage – a union wage.” One guest speaker, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pledged the labor federation would wage an all-out fight for more infrastructure jobs.

“I am proud to lead a union of dedicated and skilled trade unionists who build and maintain North America every day,” added Callahan. “Once again, our union is called to action. We must stand up against powerful interests who want to silence workers, kill private and public sector unions, and marginalize working families.”
Trumka hit several of the same themes, calling high unemployment among Building Trades workers, including Operating Engineers, “absolutely intolerable.”
“And it’s wrong — because America needs your skilled workers to rebuild the national infrastructure that is literally crumbling around us,” he declared. “Our national infrastructure is a shambles — our highways and bridges, our sea ports and airports. America needs to invest in public infrastructure on a scale unlike anything that’s been proposed…spending measured in the tens of trillions of dollars.”
The GOP-run Congress shows little appetite for infrastructure spending, ignoring labor’s lobbying. The current highway-mass transit bill lasts only for two years and is underfunded. And Congress hit the Federal Aviation Administration with a “sequester,” laying off air traffic controllers, then restored their jobs by cutting airport construction money. Lawmakers routinely shelve Obama administration infrastructure proposals.
That didn’t stop Trumka from backing Callaghan’s call and urging the delegates to lobby for the cause. “It’s time for America to retool our country — our factories and power plants, our homes and offices, rail lines and vehicles, locomotives and planes, schools and hospitals. They have to be modernized, upgraded, renovated or replaced with something cleaner, more efficient, less wasteful. And all that work means jobs.
“As we rebuild America, our jobs will spur the creation of more jobs, a virtuous cycle of investment and innovation. And America’s world-class infrastructure will make our communities more competitive in the world marketplace…It’s time for us to get up, step up and stand together to make it happen. We can do it if we work together.”