IUOE Local 150
IUOE Local 150
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MOE Benefit Funds
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Apprenticeship and Skill Improvement Program
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My150
My150

Brothers and Sisters,

It was a packed house at the General Membership Meeting on January 26th, where we honored the new Lifetime Members who received their Gold Cards and where I reported on the State of the Union. I am pleased to say that, as I have written here many times recently, our union is as strong as I can remember it ever being. Members across our jurisdiction are looking ahead to an abundance of work – including massive amounts in emerging energy technology – and our benefit funds are healthy and growing.

In the calendar year 2023, our members worked 25.6 million hours, the highest total since 2008. This was an almost three percent increase over the previous year, which was an extremely busy year itself. Throughout all eight Districts, there are big projects coming our way that will keep members working.

We are still reaping the rewards of the largest lettings in history from both the Illinois Tollway and the Illinois Department of Transportation a few months ago. There is currently around $3 billion available for state-funded transportation projects, and the Tollway still has a couple of years left on its 14-year capital plan (which Local 150 members were instrumental in passing). Work is still going on the multi-billion-dollar Central Tri-State and I-490 projects. As a member of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, I am proud to say that the nearly $13 billion in work that has been completed under this capital plan has come in both on time and on budget. That is something you don’t come across very often, especially with the innovative infrastructure that has been part of the program. Local 150 members have been part of building roads and bridges that serve as case studies for nextgeneration infrastructure, and have delivered a truly impressive end product.

In Indiana, we are seeing enormous investments underway and coming shortly near South Bend. Between the $3 billion battery plant in New Carlisle, the multi-billion-dollar Amazon Data Center campus, and more than $500 million in work underway at Notre Dame University, I expect to see our membership grow considerably in District 6. There is also more than $1.5 billion in wind and solar work coming to Northern Indiana at the Dunns Bridge and Savion projects. This abundance of work creates its own challenges, including locating and training apprenticeship candidates to complete all this work. As I always say, this is a great problem to have, but it doesn’t make it any less critical to solve.

Data center and battery plant projects are popping up all over the region, and the price tag is enormous. There is a $2 billion battery plant coming to Manteno, more than $1 billion coming to the newly-reopened Stellantis plant in Belvidere, and the completion of the $2.5 billion Meta data center in DeKalb. Between these facilities and the growth in solar farms, we should continue to see excellent job growth over the next few years in a sector that barely existed five years ago.

In the City of Chicago, the $6 billion Lincoln Yards project has already put many Local 150 members to work doing site preparation and soil removal, and it will keep going for years to come. The development known as “The 78,” located on the near south side, is now the site of a proposed new stadium for the Chicago White Sox, and that has breathed new life into the proposed $7 billion mixed-use development. One Central, a nine-tower, $20 billion development which would also serve as a transit hub near the current Soldier Field site, has also gotten a lot more serious as doubts grow over the Chicago Bears’ move to Arlington Heights.

We are working on advancing plans for the reconstruction and addition of managed lanes on Interstate 55, as well as the rebuild of I-290 from Hillside to the Byrne Interchange. Anyone who has ever sat through rush hour traffic on the Eisenhower can tell you how sorely needed these updates are, and with an estimated cost of nearly $5 billion, it is going to take a lot of pushing to get it done.

Speaking of infrastructure investments, I have reported several times on the investment that our Pension Fund made in the Houbolt Road Bridge in Joliet back in 2021. This tolled bridge allows truck traffic to go directly in and out of the intermodal center, saving time and hassle, and has proven successful less than a year after opening. Our $10 million investment is already valued at more than $27 million only three years later. We will continue to seek opportunities to invest in local infrastructure, because these investments have proven to be among the best performing sectors out there.

Late last year, the Illinois Commerce Commission shut down the Peoples Gas natural gas pipe modernization plan in the City of Chicago, costing more than 200 jobs for Local 150 members. The “rationale” behind this move was all politics – cutting fossil fuels – rather than what is best for homeowners and businesses who rely on natural gas for affordable, reliable energy. We are not going to simply stand and watch the fallout of this reckless and foolhardy act. Local 150 is preparing a media campaign to mobilize voters against the attacks on natural gas taking place all over the State of Illinois. A transition from fossil fuels to electricity (which, ironically, is largely generated by burning fossil fuels) will take decades to do right, and a bunch of politicians trying to make it happen with the stroke of a pen has “disaster” written all over it. You can count on your union to inject some sense into this debate though, so keep an eye out for our ads.

The historic amount of work has resulted in growth for all of our benefit funds as well.

On the Health and Welfare side, we have partnered with the Midwest Coalition of Labor to open four new health centers in Districts 1, 2 and 3 so far this year, and we will be opening another at our District 5 Hall in Utica in less than a month. You can use these centers the same way that you would use an Operators’ Health Center location, and you won’t get a bill for any service you receive there. These centers are shared by members of Local 150 and the Carpenters, and this partnership has allowed us to open up facilities where our own member density wouldn’t typically allow it. Our model has worked well for members and for the fund, and we will continue to find ways to increase access to quality care for you and your families.

A part of these centers that we have been emphasizing across our benefit offerings is mental health care. Whether you or a family member is struggling with depression, substance abuse, or just not feeling quite like yourself, please put these benefits to use. They are there to help, and there is no shame in taking steps to get better, the same as you would with a bad back or a sprained knee. If you are off work for the winter, that is all the more reason to make the call now. And please, check in with your kids or others in your family from time to time as well. It has been a hard few years for everyone, but we have put these resources in place to be used, so use them if you need to.

We are increasing our annual dental benefit from $1,500 to $2,000 for active members on April 1 (retirees’ benefit increased January 1) and the weekly short-term disability benefit increases from $450 up to $500 on April 1 as well.

All told, including all the credits in members’ credit banks, the Health and Welfare Fund has around $870 million in assets between the active and retired plans.

Our Retirement Enhancement Fund, administered by Fidelity, has grown to more than $560 million in assets in just over 15 years. We have successfully negotiated down the fees paid to Fidelity and are currently receiving revenue credits from Fidelity that allowed us to distribute $1.5 million pro-rata to all active accounts last October.

The Retiree Medical Savings Plan, which was started to provide a vehicle for younger members to cover retirement healthcare costs while we gradually reduced our retiree subsidy, is continuing to perform better than projected. We are currently an average of 4 years ahead of schedule in allowing members to cover all pre-Medicare costs from their RMSP accounts, which hold an average of $43,000. Total assets for the RMSP are just over one billion dollars, which is an incredible number, considering that we just launched this plan in 2007.

We have more than $80 million in the Apprenticeship Fund, which has allowed us to start the process of something we have needed to do for a few years now – double the size of the indoor arena at the Training Center. That’s right, we will have the largest indoor arena in the world, and with the amount of training we are already doing, we need every square foot!

On the Pension Fund, we are nearing the end of the Fiscal Year on March 31, when our funding level is determined. As of the end of January, things are going well, and we are continuing back toward full funding. At the General Membership Meeting, I gave an overview of the improvements that we have made over the past couple of years, and what it will take to make additional improvements. One very important thing we have done since 2021 is de-risking our fund by lowering the investment returns we assume each year. By counting on less money coming in, we are more resilient in bad markets, and we gain more in good years.

The Pension Fund currently has more than $5.2 billion, which brings our total benefit fund assets to just over $8 billion. That is a lot for one local union in the Midwest. As I told the members in attendance in January, we have a lot to be proud of as Local 150 members. They also heard it from every new Lifetime Member who got up to the microphone to speak. Those members spent their careers hearing how amazing retirement was, and they stepped forward to tell the attendees that it is true. We work hard to set up these plans so that when the time comes to retire, it is everything you hoped it would be.

In the meantime, for all you active members, get ready to work. I have never seen so many huge projects coming our way, and while I have to be honest that I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how we are going to man all these projects, I am mostly just excited that we are in this position after a run of hard years not too long ago. Time to make hay while the sun shines, and don’t forget to put a little away for a rainy day.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.