James T. Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), has been elected as vice president of the AFL-CIO.

The executive council of the AFL-CIO is composed of 57 union leaders and is the key decision-making body of the 12-million-member organization.

“I look forward to working with my fellow leaders in the labour movement to fight for working people across America,” Callahan said in a statement. “I’m honored to receive their trust and support.”

Callahan was elected IUOE general president in November 2011 to fulfill the term of retired general president Vincent Giblin. He previously served as IUOE general secretary-treasurer and as president and business manager of Local 15 in New York City.

Callahan, a 32-year union member and third generation operating engineer, moved up the ranks from member to shop steward, foreman, trustee and business representative to ultimately leading Local 15.

He was one of the many operating engineers who responded immediately to the September 11 tragedy at the World Trade Center and worked the entire recovery effort at Ground Zero.

“I firmly believe that working together, we have the collective strength and ability to deal with the challenges of our time – an erratic global economy, a hostile political environment and a stubbornly sluggish recovery,” Callahan said. “Don’t underestimate the character and resolve of American workers and their unions.”

The IUOE represents more than 400,000 members in 123 local unions across the U.S. and Canada, including Local 793. Members work as crane and heavy equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors in the construction industry; stationary engineers in the building and industrial maintenance sector; nurses and other health care workers; and public employees.