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1903 – 1920

The Beginning

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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

On September 14, 1910 Local 220, The Hod Carriers& Building Laborers was born. G.W. Washington was one of the early pioneers for Local 220 serving as a Financial Secretary during the early years.


Funds are authorized for the first time to hire organizers as membership reaches nearly 25,000, buoyed by the addition of construction workers.

With leaders like H.Q.Handy leading the way Local 220 became The Hod Carriers, Building & CommonLaborers, Local 220. Local 220 continued to grow and prosper in thecentral valley throughout the 1900's.


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.