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From Hod Carriers To Laborers: Union Marks 100 Years

A group which touts itself as one of McLean County's most diverse and active community organizations is marking 100 years.
The local chapter of the Laborers International Union hosted its membership dinner at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center on Saturday.

Dick Durbin
Credit Mike Matejka
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin addresses members of the Local 362 Laborers International Union at its 100th birthday dinner at Illinois State University on March 23.

Local 362 business manager Tony Penn noted laborers donate several thousand hours of charity time each year, through Salvation Army bellringers, Toys for Toys, the unemployed Christmas Party and others.

“They are very community active members, we all live here, and are all involved in different community groups,” Penn said. “We live to give back to the community.”

The local union represents more than 700 members in McLean County, including construction laborers, Unit 5 custodians and maintenance workers, McLean County emergency dispatchers, Bloomington Housing Authority maintenance staff and City of Bloomington professional, clerical and parking staff. Penn said that explains the union’s diversity.

Penn added the union's biggest challenge now is getting consistent work, which he says he hopes the Gov. J.B. Pritzker administration can remedy by boosting infrastructure construction.

“We always have had good relationships with our contractors that employ our members,” Penn said. “There has been a lack of road funding to put our members to work and hopefully that changes soon with the new administration.”

Hod Carriers

The union was chartered in 1919 as the International Hod Carriers, a nod to mason workers.

“A hod was a v-shaped piece of tin that was on a pole and carried brick and mortar. That’s how they would deliver the material to the bricklayers,” Penn explained.

The union estimates the standard wage when it was founded was 50 cents an hour.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.