As President-Business Manager of Local 150, James M. Sweeney is the chief executive of the union. In addition to administering hundreds of agreements and managing the union’s day-to-day operations, James serves as chairman of the fringe benefit funds. James is also General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which is the second-highest office in the International Union.
James joined the union in 1978 and worked for contractors on sewer, slag, paving and deep tunnel projects. He is a second-generation member of Local 150, following in the footsteps of his father, Martin Sweeney, and uncle, John Carroll.
In 1987, James was hired by William Dugan to serve as Local 150’s first full-time organizer. Over the next 20 years, the union’s membership doubled from less than 10,000 to more than 23,000. He pioneered the use of the inflatable rat and led some of Local 150’s most successful industry-wide organizing campaigns, including “Operation Wrench,” a successful campaign to organize the industry’s equipment rental and repair shops.
James has been President-Business Manager since 2008 and steered Local 150 through the recession while maintaining wage and benefit levels and implementing temporary healthcare subsidies and the Local 150 Food Bank to offer assistance to members in need. James led members through industry-wide strikes in Illinois in 2010 and Indiana in 2011 to preserve healthcare benefits.
In 2011, James Sweeney was named to the Board of Directors of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, where he spent 4 years advocating for the efficient modernization of the nation’s most advanced network of toll roads. James was re-appointed to the Tollway Board in 2019.
In 2020, James was appointed as General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the International’s second-highest office. He was well-prepared for this role after a decade of service as a General Vice President on the International Union of Operating Engineers General Executive Board. In his role at the International Union, James has negotiated nationwide agreements and overseen large-scale organizing efforts. James also serves on the Board of Directors of Amalgamated Bank of Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times.
James is President of the IUOE North Central States Conference and a Vice President on the Chicago Federation of Labor’s Executive Board. In addition, James is chairman of various Midwest Operating Engineers benefit funds, including the Health and Welfare, Pension, Apprenticeship, Construction Research and Information Technology Funds.
James and his wife, Marilyn, live on the south side of Chicago, where they raised their three sons. James is a faithful White Sox fan and coached all three of his sons in baseball and football.