April 3, 1903
With dangerous working conditions, poor wages and little respect on the job pervasive in the construction industry, The International Hod Carriers and Laborers Union of America is formed by 25 delegates from 17 cities meeting in Washington, D.C. to obtain a charter from the AFL. The first Constitution is published in three languages: English, German and Italian and Herman Lilien of Chicago is elected President.
The Charter Application claims:
- Wrecking of buildings
- Excavation of buildings
- Digging of trenches, piers, foundations, holes, lagging and sheeting of excavations
- Concrete installation of floors, foundations or any other (by hand or any other process), signaling, handling of concrete buckets
- Tending Masons & Plasterers — mixing, handling all materials, building scaffolding, building of proofing centers, drying of masonry and plaster
- Tending Carpenters
- Clearing debris from buildings
- Shoring, underpinning and renovating of old buildings
- Handling of dimension stones
Laborers vote to contribute more funds to “be thoroughly prepared to meet the combined, organized opposition of the employing class.”
1906 – 1912
Laborers see economic gains; wages nearly double in Pittsburgh and the workday is reduced from 10 hours to 8.5 hours. Membership reaches 11,000 workers, many of them immigrants, as overall immigration to the U.S. reaches an all-time high of 1.3 million people in the year of 1907.
A conflict with Cement Workers over artificial stones, street paving, sidewalk, steps, concrete wall and floor, guniting and patching, water and fireproofing, all concrete construction and manufacture of cement occurs, resulting in The Executive Council awarding concrete construction to the Laborers and leaving manufacture of cement to the Cement Workers.
The union changes its name to “International Hod Carriers and Common Laborers’ Union”; the new charter added additional jurisdiction: work in connection with sewers, streets, and tunnels.
Dominick D’Alessandro becomes General President
Funds are authorized for the first time to hire organizers as membership reaches nearly 25,000, buoyed by the addition of construction workers.
Calling for a fair share of economic prosperity, Laborers in Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis go on strike
The AFL concedes all work in connection with compressed air to the Laborers; added to the Laborers’ jurisdiction is the operation and erection of shields, drilling and blasting, water lines, electrical lines from buildings, lining plates, ring steel, finishing of concrete, setting locks (bucket and man), and machinery operation.
Laborers demonstrate their solidarity by assisting steelworkers trying to organize a union. June 24, the Executive Council directs the International Long Shore Association to turn over all shipyard Laborers to the Hod Carriers. December 18, the Executive Council directs the “Street Cleaners” Protective Union to affiliate with the “Hod Carriers and Laborers.”
As membership climbs to 96,000, Laborers win wage hikes — in New York, from 30 cents an hour in 1917 to 75 cents an hour, and in Chicago, from 45 cents an hour to $1 an hour.
Laborers back efforts by African-Americans to win equal treatment in the U.S. unions; the following year, the union denies petitions for segregated local unions in Cincinnati and Kansas City.
Joseph W. Moreschi becomes General President
The consolidation of Tunnel and Subway Contractors results in new jurisdiction being added: Drilling and blasting of Tunnels and Sewers, and Cellars (underground storage)
1931: The Davis-Bacon Act
A law to encourage and protect family-supporting wages is passed for construction workers on constructions, alterations or repairs of Federal buildings or Public Works projects under contract with the Federal government. The law requires payment by contractors and subcontractors on Federal construction projects of wages predetermined by the government, based upon the wage rates prevailing in the local area. The law continues to the present, preventing unscrupulous contractors from using public projects to force wages and community standards down.
1932: The Norris-LaGuardia Act
Guarantees Labor Unions freedom from injunctive interference by courts and declares “Yellow Dog Contracts” (agreements signed by an employee declaring that he would not join any Labor Organization or Union) contrary to public interest and makes them unenforceable. The Act also frees labor from regulation under anti-trust laws.
Membership plummets to 27,000 as The Great Depression takes its toll
1935: The Wagner Act
Congress establishes the principle that employees should be protected in their rights to organize into Labor Organizations and to collectively bargain wages and working conditions
Laborers hire 30 new organizers to rebuild membership
Membership rebounds to 101,000, while the merger with the Pavers International Union added paving-related jurisdiction: block and brick, laying of flagstone, bridge and curbstone, cross-walk, asphalt and concrete roads and streets
1938: The Fair Labor Standards Act (Wage-Hour Act)
Establishes a 25 cent per hour minimum with a boost to 40 cents in seven years, a 44-hour week to be brought down to 40 hours in 3 years, and forbids the use of child workers in industries engaged in interstate commerce
Membership reaches 200,000, one-half of which will serve in World War II
The membership of the International Union rises to 430,000
The Federal Highway Act is passed, creating thousands of new jobs for laborers
While a strike wave involving 4.6 million workers rolls across the country, Laborers opt to open discussions with employers on cooperating to increase the market share of union contractors
1947: The Taft-Hartley Act
Enacted by Congress to restore the balance in Labor Relations and to provide Employers protection against the unfair labor practices of the Union, it amends the Wagner Act to establish Union unfair labor practices.
The union breaks from its tradition of not making political endorsements; the same year Laborer Leonard Irving of Local 264 in Kansas City wins the congressional seat previously held by President Harry Truman.
Laborers sign the first National Pipeline Agreement, protecting wages, benefits and safety conditions for thousands of workers.
Laborers build their own training center in Kansas City, opening the era of high-quality training to help workers advance and find more opportunity for themselves and their families.
Chicago Laborers create a multi-employer pension plan, one of the first in the nation, ensuring retirement security for workers who regularly move from one employer to another.
Northern California Laborers strike successfully to win health care benefits.
The union launches an intensive education effort to promote development of health and pension programs in local unions.
The union helps found the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department Safety Committee, and promotes a war on construction site cave-ins through intensive membership education and pushing protective legislation.
Northern California Laborers win pension benefits after a six-week strike, leading to pension benefits for thousands of Laborers through the West.
The union launches organizing efforts among public employees, winning an early success with Laredo Air Force Base workers. The mostly-Hispanic members strike in 1965 and later win a contract improving working conditions.
The union ends its tradition of neutrality in national elections, endorsing Lyndon Johnson for President and pledging strong support for his War on Poverty.
The union changes its name to “Laborers’ International Union of North America”
The Laborers Political League is established to strengthen Laborers’ voices in the political process and encourage member participation in politics and government.
Members support new training opportunities with paycheck deductions for training funds.
The National Association of Post Office Mail Handlers, representing Postal Service employees, and the Journeymen Stone Cutters Association, affiliate with the Laborers. Membership reaches 550,000.
Peter Fosco becomes General President
The Laborers Associated General Contractors Education and Training Fund is established to promote more training opportunities. The labor-management partnership is supported by funds negotiated in workers’ contracts and through federal grants. Regions will follow suit, establishing training funds to provide even more intensive and diverse training opportunities.
Intensive lobbying by Laborers and other unions results in creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement is organized to help Latino workers speak out; the first president is Ray Mendoza, a Laborer.
Laborers begin offering training in asbestos abatement, and within three years begin full hazardous waste removal training.
Laborers are in the National spotlight as a documentary about Laborer stone cutters at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., wins an Academy Awards Oscar.
The first of its kind in the union movement, the Laborers Health and Safety Fund is established to protect the health and safety of laborers.
Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund launches a new program to train members for hazardous waste removal, training at least 2,500 at six sites in the first year. The fund also launches a literacy program for members.
The union creates the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, which, with the union’s health & safety fund and training fund, will come to be known as the LIUNA Tri-Funds. The fund, also known as LECET, aims to increase market opportunities for union contractors and Laborers.
Arthur A. Coia becomes General President
Recognizing of the high skill level required to perform to various jobs in the Laborer craft, the U.S. Labor Department certifies construction craft laborer as an apprenticeable occupation.
Laborers complete the reconstruction of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles in record time following a devastating earthquake.
The Laborers launch VOICE — Volunteer Organizer in Community Empowerment — to mobilize rank and file members to help in organizing campaigns.
More than 2,000 asbestos workers and 1,500 demolition workers, struggling for safer jobsites and family-supporting pay and benefits, organize with the Laborers’ Mason Tenders in New York City. The landmark campaign helps union workers capture 75 percent of the interior demolition market in New York.
The Midwest Regional Organizing Fund is created and quickly helps more than 4,000 members join the Laborers. The Eastern Region Organizing Fund is created, and starts with a base of 3,100 volunteer member organizers.
The Public Employee Department is created and successfully helps 5,200 workers with Riverside County, California, organize a union.
The Laborers form the National Retirees’ Council to mobilize members after their working career ends and to benefit from their knowledge, skill and energy in organizing, political action and grassroots lobbying.
Terrence M. O’Sullivan becomes General President
The commitment to organizing is strengthened further with a $9 million dollar investment to hire 90 more organizers, and by organizing grants to local unions, district councils and regions. Membership reaches 818,000.
More than 3,000 Laborers work 12-hour days to clean up Ground Zero, the site of terrorist attacks in New York City. The cleanup is completed three months ahead of schedule and under budget.
A construction charter school opens in Cranston, R.I. The innovative project offers high schoolers the opportunity to earn diplomas while learning the construction craft, and then attend college or begin a Laborers apprenticeship. As the driving force behind the school, General Secretary-Treasurer Armand Sabatoni is named one of the “top newsmakers of 2002” by Engineering News Record, the leading industry publication.
Laborers’ International Union of North America celebrate their 100th Anniversary