BOSTON (AP) _ Thomas Delahunt had been a Boston cop for two decades, a veteran by any measure. But the 48-year-old father of six was working 98 hours a week to feed his family. The year was 1919.

When the patrolman's union wanted to join the American Federation of Labor that year and Boston's police commissioner said no, Delahunt joined 1,115 fellow officers in a strike.

Then-Gov. Calvin Coolidge fired them all.

Now, nearly 80 years later, Boston police are finally joining the AFL-CIO. The move, part of a nationwide trend to build bargaining power with carpenters and laborers, reverses the legacy of the historic strike of 1919.

``With Boston police coming back into the AFL, we think a lot of patrolmen throughout the country will be watching,'' said Art Reddy, vice president of the International Union of Police Associations, which has been chartered by the AFL-CIO since 1979. ``Everyone who's been on the job more than 10 years knows about the Boston police strike.''

The IUPA has scored two big victories in the past six months: state police in Puerto Rico and patrolmen in Cleveland voted to join. Reddy expects to win a patrolman's election April 24 in North Miami, Fla.

``We have recruited 20,000 patrolmen in the last year,'' said Sam Cabral, IUPA president. The union now has 65,000 members, he said, double its membership two years ago.

In Boston, the 2,000-member patrolmen's association has gone 16 months without a contract with the city. After bitter negotiations, the sides are heading to arbitration.

When Boston police held a reception Monday to announce that officers had voted by a 9-1 ratio in February to join the national union, the links to 1919 were tangible. A benediction was offered by the Rev. Thomas J. Gibbons, whose father was a Boston cop who became a school janitor after the strike.

Gibbons recalled that the job switch didn't much affect the family fortunes because patrolmen only made $1,200 to $1,400 a year back then.

Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., said he'd never forget the feeling of discovering an old news clipping that said Thomas Delahunt _ his grandfather _ had led 134 men out of the Joy Street Station on Beacon Hill because he wasn't going to desert the union leadership.

``He is really my hero,'' Delahunt said. ``Because they had the courage to do what had to be done.''