Rep. Birmingham accused the Republican majority in the House of “hypocrisy” for taking credit for workmen’s compensation legislation that passed the House on May 23, 1935, the North Adams Transcript reported (May 24, 1935, p 5, via Newspaper Archives).
Birmingham argued that it was the Democrats in the House who had pushed for legislation protecting workers, not the Republicans. He focused his ire on Rep. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., of Beverly, a Republican member of the House who was praised by members of both parties for his work on the legislation.
The legislation package was made up of three bills. The first provided a minimum weekly wage of $7 during the period when the employee was unable to work because of a work-related accident. The second provided a minimum weekly wage of $10 for an employee who lost a limb. The third denied any compensation for an employee injured because of misconduct, but granted compensation to the family in the case of the employee’s death.
The three bills were passed on a vote of 206 to 2 for the first bill, 198 to 5 for the second, and 168 to 28 for the third.
Defending his party from Birmingham’s charge, John E. Hallwell of New Bedford, a labor union member, asked if the Democrats wanted to take credit for all of the progressive legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House since 1915. “If they would, I would defend my party against the opposition at any time,” he said.
Lodge took a more conciliatory tone. He noted that Birmingham was absent when he had publicly complimented the efforts of Sen. James P. Meehan, a Democratic from Lawrence, for the work he had done on behalf of labor.