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History of the International Union
of Operating Engineers

William E. Iacullo, President
Denis J. Lechowicz, Vice President
Abel Soto, Recording Secretary
Mark A. Leahy, Financial Secretary
Andre R. Johnson, Treasurer

The history of the engineers who make up Local 143 and who serve the Chicago Public Schools can be traced to the Rules of the Chicago Board of Education of 1863, eight years before the Chicago Fire. Quoting from the Chicago Board of Education rules, “In all buildings heated by steam, it shall be the duty of the Engineer under the supervision of the Building and Supply Agent to take complete control of the heating apparatus when steam is needed in any room or when it is desired to turn it on or off”. The Teacher shall notify the Engineer whose duty is to attend to the matter promptly. The Teacher and pupils in these buildings will have nothing to do with the heating apparatus”.

On June 15, 1902, 10 Stationary Engineers of the Chicago Public Schools requested a charter from the International Union of Steam Engineers now the I.U.O.E. On August 08, 1902 the “Chicago School Engineers” were granter their first charter known as Local 143. A second charter was granted to the Chicago Public School Engineers on September 23, 1927. Known as Local 143-B, this Branch Charter was granted to provide union representation to the 100 assistant engineers hired by the Chicago Board of Education as temporary engineers until they could be qualified by a Civil Service Examination. The members who were then qualified would become Local 143 members. Presently, all Licensed and Apprentice Engineers employed by the Chicago Public Schools becomes a member of local 143.

Throughout Local 143-143B’s history, its’ leadership had been able to maintain a decent standard for members without a written agreement. The anti-labor sentiments of the 1980s made it necessary to obtain a written agreement. In 1983, Local 143 obtained its first contract with the Chicago Board of Education known as the “Letter of Memorandum”.

Many improvements in the Chicago Public Schools can be attributed to the members of Local 143. Their dedication and knowledge ensure that the school buildings are safe and comfortable for students, teachers and staff.

Over the years the desire of the school engineers to improve the school environment and conditions has inspired many positive changes in the school systems Plant Operation. Mechanical ventilation was adopted as the best method of heating school buildings in 1868.

A Chicago Public School Engineer and member of our Local named Thomas Waters, invented the indirect system of heating and ventilation. As Engineer of the Dore Elementary School, he observed students and teachers wearing heavy sweaters and jackets due to the unregulated heat. His idea was to provide a more constant level of heat in each and every classroom. This indirect “plenum” type of heating system is used in many of the 600-plus school buildings in Chicago. Mr. Waters was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900 for his innovation.

Mr. Waters eventually became the 1st Chief Engineer in the Chicago Public Schools. In 1911 a newly constructed school building located at 4550 N. Campbell was named “Thomas J. Waters Elementary School” in honor of his accomplishments and dedication to the comfort of the school children. From this Local 143’s motto evolved “Dedicated to the Safety and Comfort of the School Children of Chicago”

Another school named after a Local 143 Engineer is Manley High School. This school building originally operated by the US Navy was given back to the Chicago Public Schools and was dedicated in 1929 in memory of Hugh Manley. Hugh Manley, a Chicago Public School engineer and a member of IUOE Local 143, was working at the Moos elementary School. In March of 1923, in order to prevent a boiler explosion, he suffered injuries which ultimately resulted in his death. His heroic efforts protected the lives and safety of hundreds of students and teachers. (Greater Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his fellow man.)

Throughout Local 143’s history, we have remained “Dedicated to the safety and comfort of the Chicago Public School children. No student or staff member has sustained a debilitating illness or a serious injury through the neglect of a school engineer.

The responsibilities of the IUOE Local 143 engineers in the Chicago Public Schools are operating, managing and maintaining the 600 Chicago Public School buildings. Under the direction of the Principal, our duties include but are not limited to performing building repairs and preventative maintenance, monitoring fire and safety systems, vandalism repair, operating  swimming pools, exterior grounds maintenance, pest control management and energy conservation. Supervising Custodial operations at the schools. It should be noted, that as of July 2012, the Engineers no longer are under the direction of the local Principal, but are managed by the Department of Operations at the CPS head quarter in addition they no longer supervise the custodial operations at their schools.

In 2005, for the first time in our history, Local 143 organized a new bargaining unit of unrepresented Chicago Public School employees from the central office into the Local 143B charter. Local 143 is honored that our sister and brother members who were previously non represented employees had the confidence and trust in the leadership of our great Local to represent them.

Also, IUOE Local 143 with support of then CPS, CEO, Paul Vallas and his Chief of Staff Arne Duncan, was the first labor union to administer an apprentice program comprised of ONLY CPS graduates. To date over 70 CPS former graduates are now journeymen engineers and work in the system they were educated.

Local 143 is proud of its heritage and commitment to serving the public schools in Chicago. The officers and members of Local 143-143B hold unionism and brotherhood with the highest regard. We are proud to be a part of the International Union of Operating Engineers for 115 years.