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History of Local 106

The International Union of Steam Engineers (IUSE) was founded on December 7, 1896

There were 6 Charter Locals:





St. Louis








Kansas City

The total membership of this new organization was less than 700. The original membership was primarily stationary engineers who operated steam engines, which produced heat, electricity, refrigeration and power for buildings.

 Membership in this National union grew slowly the first six years. A serious attempt to organize took place in 1902 and 1903 in the Midwest, Pennsylvania and New York. Local 106 in Albany was chartered on April 23, 1902 and was one of 68 Locals chartered in this period. Local 106 was chartered as a “mixed” local with jurisdiction over stationary engineers as well as hoisting and portable engineers.

The charter membership consisted of 20 men from the south end of the city of Albany. The Local at this time has no full time employees or office. Union officers worked their full time job during the day and took care of union business at night out of their home. In 1907, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), predecessor of the AFL-CIO, gave the International Union of Steam Engineers jurisdiction over construction equipment. Probably the most significant event in the history of the IUOE.

Local 106 organized vigorously by 1910 membership had grown to 90 men. In 1911, the Local appoints its first business agent, Thomas F. McGraw on a part time basis. In 1918, McGraw became the full time agent and serves in that roll for over 50 years!

Local 106 continues to organize most of the stationary engineers in the City of Albany and the hoisting engineers throughout the 1920’s.

In 1927, the IUSE merged with the Internal Union of Steam Shovel Operators and Dredgers. This gave them a toehold on the Heavy and Highway Industry.

By 1930, Local 106 had Albany County organized and now looked to expand. Between 1927 and 1930, Local 106 was given jurisdiction over 16 additional counties in upstate New York. Local 106 now represented engineers from Poughkeepsie to the Canadian border.

During the 1930’s, Local 106, like the rest of the country, suffered throughout the Great Depression. Construction work was slow but 106 survived intact mainly through the strength of its stationary members working in the many buildings, hotels, breweries and theaters throughout its area.

Although construction was slow, there were some major projects, such as the Dunn memorial bridge, Port of Albany, Alcove Reservoir and Alfred E. Smith Building that 106 was instrumental in building.

1940’s, Local 106 continued to expand and organized many of the quarries and material suppliers in their jurisdiction. This was not easy and often involved long and costly strikes. One of the larger strikes during this time was against Callanan Industries Quarries. Former Governor Malcolm Wilson, attorney for Callanan in the 1940’s remembers the strike well and says, “The industry gained a lot of respect for 106 at that time.”

Local 106 emerged from the 1940’s with control over the building and heavy and highway construction industry. The end of the 1940’s organized nearly all of the large construction firms in the Albany area. The 1950’s saw the boom of the heavy and highway, work with the interstate highway system. To deal with these large projects, Local 106, along with the locals throughout upstate NY, negotiated a regional H & H agreement. The 1950’s saw a boom in construction membership for 106.


Unfortunately, stationary membership decreased as the buildings and industries in the Albany area that employed them began to close down

  • Thruway

  • State Campus on Washington Avenue

  • Missile sites in the North Country

  • Many 106 members worked on the gigantic St. Lawrence Seaway where over 3,000 operating engineers were employed.


The end of the 1950’s, Tom McGraw stepped down and looked back with pride with the state of the Local, which had grown from 20 to over 2,000 members. 106’s wages and working conditions were the highest in Upstate New York. The Local overwhelmingly elected Daniel J. McGraw as Business Manager to replace “Old Tom.”

 In the 1960’s, Local 106, along with the other operating engineer Locals in upstate New York formed a pension plan. The EJPF which all of our current members enjoy today. At that time, the monthly benefit was a meager (?). Sixty retired engineers immediately received a pension.

  • Pension plan was a milestone for the Local as it had pushed for decades.

  • The 1960’s were boom years for the engineers. Massive South Mall project. Biggest public work job in the country. In 1964, the first contract for the Empire State Mall was awarded to J. H. Maloy and work began. In 1973, Governor Rockefeller officially dedicated the mall as the “Empire State Plaza.” At that point, hundreds of 106 operators had worked on the project.

  • The 60’s were a tremendous time for 106. Other big projects included the Northway, which stretched from Albany to the Canadian border, all of which is under the Local’s jurisdiction. Additionally, many of the arterial projects were built during this period and work on the Gilboa dam began.

In the early 1970’s, work continued to be good. Gilboa dam employed over 200 106 operators and employment was steady.


In 1971, Local 106 petitioned for and received a registered apprentice engineer’s charter, officially starting the Local’s training program. The Local soon established a formal training program and built its facility in Westerlo, NY.


Program offers apprenticeship training and journeymen upgrade and new skills training in heavy equipment operation, mechanics and welding. The site is also used by New York State for crane operator certification.


The 1970’s ended strong for Local 106 with the building of Interstate 88 from Schenectady to Binghamton.


Big projects in the 1980’s – 1990’s included:

Iroquois Pipeline

Power Plants

Highway work


Year 2000 and beyond: We look forward to massive Hudson River cleanup.


Our current membership is approaching 1800.


From Local 106 Website

Copyright 2009    All rights Reserved Marianne C. Rafferty