James M. Sweeney is a second-generation Operating Engineer. Jim’s father, Martin Sweeney, was a crane operator since 1955 as was his uncle, John “Red” Carroll. Sweeney himself has been a member since 1978, working for contractors on sewer and water, slag paving, and deep tunnel projects.
In 1987, Bill Dugan appointed Jim the first Local 150 full-time organizer, and Jim played an integral role in the tremendous growth of the Local and its fight against non-union opposition. At a very early point, Jim took on an ABC contractor called Midwest Construction out of Missouri which was starting the largest non-union dirt job in any point in our jurisdiction in Winthrop Harbor. Jim won an NLRB election among Midwest employees, and the Company went home to Missouri and never came back. He similarly knocked ABC contractor Brown & Root out of a project in Oglesby, Illinois, after securing a project labor agreement from the owner, Lonestar Cement.
Jim continued to orchestrate some of Local 150’s most successful organizing campaigns even after he became an assistant to the President-Business Manager. He is the architect of the industry-wide campaign to organize the aerial lift, heavy equipment rental and repair shops dubbed “Operation Wrench,” which has become a model for the American Labor Movement. Jim helped negotiate dozens of initial contracts, including seniority provisions; progressive discipline; strong, legitimate picket line language; and accretion clauses making it easier to organize an expanding industry. As assistant to the President-Business Manager, Jim proved to be a shrewd negotiator and an exceptional organizer.
Since 2001, Jim has served as Vice-President of Local 150, taking on a variety of additional responsibilities including serving as Trustee on the Pension, Health and Welfare, and Apprenticeship Funds, chairing the MOE Information Technology Board, as well as taking over direction of the Chicago Building Trades Joint Conference Board (the Board which settles jurisdictional disputes). Jim continues to play an integral role in all organizing activities.