Oral History Videos
So much of history, particularly the history of Local 302, is not written down and is probably lost forever.
We’re putting an end to this. From now on, we’re going to record the oral history of Local 302 members, retirees and yes, even some of our contractors, so we can preserve our history. By keeping track of our history, we can learn from it and hopefully not make the same mistakes again.
These oral history videos are available through a YouTube channel. Just follow the instructions below. These YouTube videos are unlisted which means it is extremely unlikely that anybody except a Local 302 member can see them.
These are real live Local 302 members. They aren’t professional actors, they didn’t have a script; they were recorded in living rooms and around kitchen tables over coffee and photo albums. They’re telling you their own stories in their own words.
Some joined Local 302 because they followed their father’s or uncle’s footsteps. Others had to wait patiently. Some came in as permit hands; others as oilers and still others as apprentices. Regardless, once they became Local 302 members, they were part of its proud history and tradition, learning the skills and lessons from experienced journeyman and passing them on to young apprentices.
All of them recognize the important difference Local 302 has made to them and their families: a safe and stable retirement with an adequate income and excellent health care, an excellent standard of living and a lifetime of memories and pride in a job well-done every time they drive on a highway they graded, a boat channel they dredged or a building they erected.
And while Local 302 made a difference in their lives, they have individually and collectively made Local 302 what it is today: one of the oldest and most-respected labor unions in the Pacific Northwest with outstanding benefit and training programs and highly-skilled and hard-working construction hands. If you yourself or another Local 302 retiree would like to be videotaped, please contact Daren Konopaski to arrange an interview.
Here are some of the individual stories captured in short videos which you can stream from this website.
Bob Pittenger: After graduating high school, Bob Pittenger worked his way up to Alaska with a friend and eventually wound up on the cat train that constructed the Defense Early Warning System (DEW) line. A gifted storyteller, Bob’s accounts of Alaska are both fascinating and humorous, including “The Man Who Could See Through Snow”. Bob returned to the Lower 48 and became dispatcher and then the District 3 representative during the height of the Satsop power plant construction.
Dick Fuller: Dick Fuller joined Local 302 in 1955 working on a drill rig at the High Gorge Dam, where he lived in camp. Hired by Russ Conlon, he worked in the Local 302 dispatch office and was elected and served as president of Local 302.
George Verheul: Although he came from a union family, George began his career as a surveyor and led a survey crew for many years before he joined Local 302. In his first dispatch to the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant job, George recalls he was making a lot more as a “stake painter” than as a crew leader and with much better benefits. George is retired now, living next door to the training center outside Ellensburg.
Glen Allen: A native of Eastern Tennessee, Glen was taught in school that unions were evil, but after a stint as an Army Engineer in Vietnam, was able to join Local 302 and today enjoys something his former classmates seldom enjoy—a decent pension check—which allows him to pursue his favorite hobby, restoring vintage motorcycles.
Herb Miller: Herb began his career as a scraper hand on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1975, shifting to the Satsop Nuclear Power plant. Eventually, he was appointed by newly-elected Business Manager Larry Johnson where he worked extensively in Local 302’s organizing program. He describes in detail the success of the “salting” program.
Jeff Schmelzer: After serving on destroyers in the Vietnam War, Jeff started as a permit hand in 1969. When the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began, Jeff found himself running scraper at Five Mile Camp. He ran a radar construction project on Amchitka Island and worked at Satsop Nuclear Power Plant and served briefly as a Local 302 business agent in the Yakima area.
Larry Johnson: Now retired, Larry Johnson was elected Local 302 business manager in a special election in 1990. In this video, Larry recalls his early days in Local 302 and his colorful experiences working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline including run-ins with bears and Teamsters.
Leon Tomasic: After several unsuccessful attempts to join the Operating Engineers in Ohio, Leon hitch-hiked to Alaska in 1975, arriving in time to work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline starting at Franklin Bluff Camp. Leon shares his pipeline experiences and time as a job steward.
Clyde Wilson: Son of Local 302 business manager Jack Wilson, Clyde began his Local 302 career oiling for several veteran crane hands, going into marine construction. In 1995, Clyde was elected business manager and retired in 2001.
Al Crosswhite: A seventy-year member of the Operating Engineers, Al began his career at Hanford and then moved onto dam construction, then moved west and into dirt work. Eventually, he moved to Alaska where he and his wife Karen founded KC Construction, a Local 302 contractor.
Charlie Barton: Even though his father was an Operator, Charlie had to work at Boeing until he got his first dispatch. Charlie worked as a mechanic in Alaska and Washington.
Dale Reid: Born and raised in Petersburg, Alaska, Dale worked for A.C. Green throughout Alaska, and served as district rep in Juneau for nine years then retired briefly but came out of retirement to serve as Labor Commissioner Click Bishop’s chief of staff.
Doug Frizzell: Doug recalls that it took three operators to sign off on you in order to become a full-fledged 302 member: “they were putting their reputation on the line for you and it really meant something when they did”. Doug shares some great stories about organizing and serving as a salt.
Page Last Updated: May 04, 2018 (19:44:17)