TRADES & UNION DIGEST > People > Labor Leader: George Norcross spent 16 years as South Jersey AFL-CIO president

Labor Leader: George Norcross spent 16 years as South Jersey AFL-CIO president

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Charlie Sprang
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By David Wildstein, September 02 2019 1:04 am
New Jersey Globe

George E. Norcross (1928-1998), the father of a U.S. Congressman, the managing partner at a major New Jersey law firm, and the state’s most powerful Democratic powerbroker, spent his career as a labor leader.

Norcross served as president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Union for sixteen years.

Starting out as a courier in the RCA mailroom at age 14, Norcross joined the U.S. Navy during World War II. In the 1940s, he became a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1448. He served as IBEW Local 106 president from 1952 to 1954.

He became an International Representative of the IBEW in 1954.

Eventually, it was Norcross who was negotiating contracts with RCA at their Camden factory.
Norcross founded the Union Organization for Social Services and later became president of a group that expanded into more than 250 areas of the country. He was also a member of the Cooper Hospital Board of Directors and was appointed to the Camden County Children’s Shelter Board in 1965.

Gov. Tom Kean nominated Norcross to serve on the New Jersey State Racing Commission in 1988. He withdrew after State Sen. Lee Laskin (R-Cherry Hill) used senatorial courtesy to block his confirmation by the Senate.

Three years later, after his son, George E. Norcross III had become the Camden County Democratic Chairman, the family got their revenge against Laskin.

Voter anger towards Gov. Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion tax increase made 1991 the most lopsided Republican landslide since 1920 when Warren Harding’s coattails led Assembly Republicans to capture 39 of 40 seats in the lower house.

Republicans picked up ten Senate seats, winning in some unlikely places, and won control of the Camden County Board of Freeholders.

But in the suburban 6th district where Laskin was seeking re-election to a fifth term, the results became an outlier.

Democrats spent nearly $2 million on the race – a record-setting amount for a State Senate race in those days. George Norcross III guaranteed a $250,000 l loan for the effort.

Laskin was savaged by Philadelphia network TV ads that attacked his ethics. The ads ran during an Eagles game on Monday Night Football, and during Game 7 of the World Series.

Democrat John Adler beat Laskin by 6,098 votes, 55%-45%.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to labor leader George Norcross came at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami.

His wife, Carol, was elected to serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention pledged to Hubert Humphrey. She won the post after beating a candidate pledged to George McGovern by 1,118 votes.

Just 59% of the delegates voted to ratify McGovern’s pick of Thomas Eagleton as the Democratic nominee for Vice President.

Carol Norcross cast her vote for her husband, George.

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