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1912

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In 1912, the young union went through two name changes becoming the International Hod Carriers and Common Laborers of America and then the International Hod Carriers' Building and Common Laborers of America. A hod is a tray or trough that has a pole handle and that is used to shoulder loads of materials such as mortar or brick on a construction site.

In 1920, the union had 548 Local Unions with a membership of 96,143. Through his leadership the union supported the rights of African-American trade unionists to be accepted as equals.

Another of the historic industrial conflicts prior to World War I occurred in 1912 in the textile mills of Lawrence, Mass. It was led not by an AFL union but by the radical Industrial Workers of the World-the IWW, or the Wobblies, as they were generally known -an organization in frequent verbal and physical conflict with the AFL and its affiliates. The strike in Lawrence started when the mill owners, responding to a state legislature action reducing the work week from 54 to 52, coldly and without prior notice cut the pay rates by a 31/2 percent.

The move produced predictable results: a strike of 50,000 textile workers; arrests; fiery statements by the IWW leaders; police and militia attacks on peaceful meetings; and broad public support for the strikers. Some 400 children of strikers were "adopted" by sympathizers. When women strikers and their children were attacked at the railroad station by the police after authorities had decided no more youngsters could leave town, an enraged public protest finally forced the mill owners not only to restore the pay cuts but to increase the workers' wages to more realistic levels.

Congress, at the urging of the AFL, created a separate U.S. Department of Labor with a legislative mandate to protect and extend the rights of wage earners. A Children's Bureau, with a major concern to protect the victims of job exploitation, was created. The LaFollette Seaman's Act required urgently needed improvements in the working conditions on ships of the U.S. merchant marine. Of crucial importance, the Clayton Act of 1914 made explicit the legal concept that "the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce" and hence not subject to the Sherman Act provisions which had been the legal basis for injunctions against union organization. Clayton gave legalized strikes and boycotts and peaceful picketing, and dramatically limited the use of injunctions in labor disputes. Little wonder that AFL President Gompers hailed the Clayton Act as a "magna carta."

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