McGuire is the ‘Father of Labor Day’
CHERRY HILL, NJ – Today, U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) – a lifelong labor leader and Pennsauken native – announced that the Peter J. McGuire memorial and gravesite is now part of the National Register of Historic Places.
“While many people know that Peter J. McGuire is the ‘Father of Labor Day,’ they don’t often know he lived in Camden and was buried in Pennsauken. This remarkable man, with South Jersey roots, understood the American workforce is our greatest asset and honoring his achievements with this historic landmark is the least we can do,” said Congressman Norcross. “I’ve spent my career working as an electrician and fighting for New Jersey’s working families – and Peter J. McGuire set the stage for all of that. I’m humbled that – as just a kid from Pennsauken – I’m in a position to properly memorialize my hometown hero.”
“I am extremely proud that the Peter J. McGuire’s gravesite and memorial in Pennsauken’s Arlington Cemetery is now part of both the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Peter J. McGuire was a key advocate in the fight for respect and fairness in the labor workforce and helped to improve the lives of all workers. That’s why my Administration approved the state designation and continues to support Congressman Norcross’ work to honor the legacy of Peter J. McGuire.”
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of our country’s historic buildings, districts, sites, structures and objects worthy of preservation. It was established as part of the National Historical Preservation Act of 1966 and is overseen by the U.S. National Park Service.
Today’s news follows Norcross’ August 31st announcement that the memorial and gravesite was added to the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places, which is the official list of the state’s historic resources – approved by the New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Sites. In addition to these two designations, Norcross has also introduced a bill in Congress to go even farther and designate the memorial and gravesite as a National Historic Landmark.
Norcross said that obtaining the two historic approvals so far was only possible because of the research conducted by historian Robert Shinn.
“Those who helped produce the research to qualify Peter J. McGuire’s Memorial and Gravesite for the National Register of Historic Places were thrilled, but not surprised, to learn that the United States Department of Interior recently approved the nomination,” said Robert Shinn, Treasurer of the Board of the Camden County Historical Society and principal author of the nominating document. “We were not surprised because McGuire was simply a great American, and this honor was long overdue. While McGuire is most famous for being the father of Labor Day, which he proposed in 1882, our research confirmed that he was a labor leader of transcendent national significance in the history of the United States for having founded and led both the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the American Federation of Labor and, of perhaps equal or greater importance, for having organized and successfully led the 8-hour work day movement.”
Shinn added, “Credit for this successful nomination must be shared with Congressman Donald Norcross, Robert Fisher Hughes, President of the Pennsauken Historical Society; Michael Tapken, Tri-State assistant to the regional manager of the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters and curator of the Carpenters Tool and History Museum in Philadelphia; and Kathleen Rossell, great-granddaughter of Peter J. McGuire, who shared McGuire’s diary, letters, and papers, and family archives and photographs to support the nomination.”
Norcross’ Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Landmark Act in Congress designates the memorial and gravesite as a National Historic Landmark, which means it would be deemed exceptional because of its abilities to illustrate U.S. heritage and formally designated by the Secretary of the Interior. While properties listed in the State and National Registers are primarily of state and local significance, National Historic Landmarks reflect places of significance for the entire country. Click here to read the full text of the Act, which is endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
“The story of Peter J. McGuire, the ‘Father of Labor Day,’ reminds us that workers have been fighting for over a century to win the freedom to negotiate for higher wages and better jobs. We have come a long way since the first Labor Day in 1882, but we still have a long way to go,” said Richard L. Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Today’s labor leaders stand on the shoulders of visionaries like Peter J. Maguire, and we commend our Brother, Representative Don Norcross, for honoring our past, but more importantly for helping build a better future.”
“Peter J. McGuire is our founder, one of the great labor leaders of the 19th Century and most deserving of this honor,”said Douglas J. McCarron, President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. “We thank Congressman Norcross – our champion and union brother – for proposing this bill and encourage other Members of Congress to join him in honoring the ‘Father of Labor Day.’”
Norcross announced the New Jersey State designation at the 124th Annual Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Observance and Scholarship Breakfast alongside Senator Bob Menendez, Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and the SNJ AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Bob Schiavinato.
“As a fierce and bold labor leader, Peter J. McGuire has served as an inspiration to me throughout my time in Congress,” said Senator Menendez. “From proposing the celebration of Labor Day to fighting for higher wages and fair workplaces, McGuire’s work has benefited generations of New Jerseyans. Congressman Norcross has been an extraordinary colleague in helping improve the lives of all workers and I applaud his work in memorializing McGuire’s gravesite.”
“As a lifelong union member, I have gratitude to two fathers — my dad, an iron worker and proud Union man, and the ‘Father of Labor Day,’ Peter J. McGuire,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Peter McGuire, who lived in South Jersey and is buried in Pennsauken, helped form the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. He fought for the respect and the fair wages, we, in the building trades enjoy today. Organized labor helped build our modern, industrial nation and Peter McGuire helped build organized labor. As we celebrate Labor Day, it is only fitting that we honor the work of Peter J. McGuire with this dedicating.”
“By recognizing Peter J. McGuire’s work and legacy, we no longer consign this monument and statue to the mausoleum of memory. Instead, we can visit and be inspired and energized to lock arms with our friends and neighbors, with our allies and elected representatives, to continue the struggle for the American Dream,” said Bob Schiavinato, the President of the SNJ AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. “I’m proud to stand here today and recognize how much of what we take for granted began over a century ago and how much work we have ahead of us.”